"Hidden Agenda"
Part I

November, 2000
Stallions Gate, NM

Al was halfway to his office when Ziggy contacted him to notify him that
Sam had leaped in. After confirming that Sam's entrance to another life
seemed relatively passive and posed no immediate, detectable threat, he
altered course to go to the Waiting Room first. As he strolled down the
sterile hallways that made up Project Quantum Leap, he reflected that it
had been a good week. Sam hadn't been between leaps for more than a day,
much less seven, for a long time, until now. Al and the rest of the
staff had taken the opportunity to catch up on much-neglected paperwork,
phone calls, and updates to Ziggy's system. When all that was completed
within the first three days, Al gave the entire staff a vacation in
shifts and then _he_ went on...vacation. Vacation for Al rarely
consisted of actually leaving project grounds. This time, it didn't seem
to require his leaving his quarters.

He smiled slightly, wondering if he should wake Tina, then decided to
let her sleep. If this leap was off to a steady start, her staff could
handle things just fine. He approached the observation deck to the
Waiting Room and saw Dr. Verbena Beeks already inside, talking to the
guest. The smile widened just a fraction. He was fond of Verbena on
general terms, but he was especially pleased when she was busy
psychoanalyzing someone _else_. The one disadvantage to an entire week,
he reflected, was that she took the opportunity to turn her sights on
the staff.

Al stood watching for a few moments, trying to gather any information
through conversation content and body language. He reached forward and
nudged up the speakers so he could hear what they were talking about.
Sam had leaped into a woman this time, an elderly woman, it seemed. She
was short, maybe about 5'1", with graying hair curled in at
shoulder-length. She was pleasantly rounded, giving her a grandmother
appearance, and she was smiling and talking calmly with Verbena.

"So what we need to know now is what year it is," Verbena was saying as
she made a notation on the clipboard.

The woman placed a hand on Verbena's arm, patting it lightly. "Miss, I
would be glad to answer all your questions, but I really must get back.
I have a little girl I'm looking after and I don't want anything to
happen to her while I'm gone."

Verbena made another note, hastily. "Oh, she's being taken care of, I
assure you. Just relax - we'll take care of everything, I promise."

"She's a very sensitive child," she insisted, still soft-spoken and
centered. Al took a drag on his cigar and sat down in the seat. Already,
he'd taken a liking to this woman.

"I'm sure she'll be fine. Can you tell me what the date is Ms. Devlin?
And the year?"

"Bernadette," she corrected with a gentle smile. "And it's..." She
hesitated, suddenly not as sure of herself and Al recognized
swiss-cheese when he saw it. "I know it's the fifth, but I - the fifth
of some month, 1998."

"Well, that's still very helpful Ms. - Bernadette." Verbena nodded at
the woman. "Now, this girl you're taking care of, why don't you tell me
about her?"

Bernadette sat on the bench behind her and folded her hands in her lap,
looking vaguely ridiculous with her legs hanging down over the edge.
"Her name is Tabitha. Tabitha Kesey, but everyone calls her Tabby. She's
a darling child."

"Kesey." If she was a little girl, chances were she didn't belong to
Bernadette, but still the difference in last names was a little
surprising. "Did you adopt her, then?"

"Well, her mother passed away a few months ago. I was her great-aunt."
Bernadette shook her head sadly. "She was a dear, kind woman. Her
husband died when Tabby was still a baby and so she was sent on to live
with me. It was the perfect arrangement: Tabby knows me well. They were
always over to visit and she's comfortable around me. I think a part of
that girl still doesn't understand that her mother's never coming back."

"I'm sorry to hear of your loss."

Bernadette dropped her eyes. "Yes..." she agreed slowly. "So you
understand why I need to get back as soon as I can."

"We'll do our best," the psychiatrist promised her. "In the meantime,
I'll send someone down with something for you to eat."

"That would be very kind, thank you."

Verbena nodded and walked out of the Waiting Room straight up to the
observation deck. "I thought you'd be up here," she commented to Al as
she entered.

"Yeah. Seems like a nice lady." He rolled the cigar between his fingers
and eyed Bernadette through the two-way mirror.

"Very helpful. Her memory's remarkably intact, too. One of the best,
most calm visitors we've ever had."

"What's our location, here?" Al asked, pulling out the handlink to enter
the data.

"She's not sure, exactly, but she seemed to think it was somewhere
around the Kansas/Oklahoma border. As far as I can tell, she lives alone
with this girl, Tabitha."

"Okay." Al nodded in satisfaction. "Sounds like it's time to go see how
Sam's doing."

"Good. And, Al, tell him to keep an eye on Tabitha. If her mother just
died, she's probably not doing so well about now. And depending on how
young she is..."

Al slapped his forehead. "You're right, I forgot. Poor thing..."

October, 1998
Hardesty, OK

Al popped in to see Sam pleading with a door.

Kneeling beside a solid oak barrier, Sam was talking in low, soothing
tones. Al stood behind him, watching. "Honey, it's okay. I'm...a friend
and I'm just going to take care of you for a while, okay?" The only
response was a small wail from the room on the other side. "Oh, don't
cry... Your mommy'll be-"

"Sam, no!" Al snapped suddenly and Sam jumped violently.

"Al," he hissed angrily, "are you trying to kill me? You're going to
give me a heart attack. How long have you been there?"

"Long enough to see you have no way with children," Al responded tartly.
"And don't mention her mother. Her mother died a couple months ago -
you've leaped into her great aunt."

Sam put a hand against the stained wood, as if he could offer comfort to
her that way. "Oh, the poor thing..."

"Yeah." Al disposed of his cigar and tucked the handlink away. "Here,
let me try..." He walked through the door and saw what he could only
describe as a darling little girl, clutching a stuffed teddy bear and
sobbing quietly. Al crouched down to her level and tried to look as
unintimidating as he could. "Hey, Tabby."

Her crying slowed somewhat and she stared at him with big blue eyes,
gazing between the ears of the bear.

Encouraged, he sat down cross-legged on the floor in front of her. "My
name is Al," he volunteered. Still no verbal response. He smiled faintly
and leaned a little closer to her. "You don't have to be scared, baby.
The man you saw is Sam and he's a friend of mine. He and I are going to
hang around for the next few days and make sure everything is okay here.
And I'm going to keep you company, would that be all right?"

She nodded, wide-eyed. "I want Aunt Bernie."

He gazed mournfully at her. "I know you do, sweetheart, but she can't be
here right now. That's why I'm here - to take care of you." He waited
until she nodded again before continuing. "Now Sam's a nice man and he
just wants to help you, so why don't you go unlock the door and let him
in for me, can you do that?"

Dutifully, if reluctantly, she marched to the door and opened it,
backing away in surprise to find Sam right there in front of her, almost
at eye-level. Sam smiled gently at her. "Hi..."

"Tabitha," Al supplied.

She glanced shyly towards Al. "Tabby," she corrected and he broke into a

"Hi, Tabby," Sam greeted her. "I'm sorry I scared you."

Al stood up, brushing off his slacks. "Honey, why don't you play in here
for a few minutes and I'll be right back, okay?"


He wished he could touch her, just to give her a hug. "That's my girl,"
he said and winked at her. Almost reluctantly, she giggled, and then
proceeded to play with several items already scattered across the floor.
He gestured towards the living room and followed Sam in. "Okay, Sam,
here's the rundown. It's October 5, 1998 and you're in Hardesty,
Oklahoma. Your name is Bernadette Devlin and you're the great-aunt of
Tabitha Kesey. Her mother died and you received custody of the girl."

"What about the father?" Sam asked, leaning against the back of the

Al paced in front of him. "No, he died several years ago. Tabitha has
other living relatives, but this is who her mother wanted her to live
with. Bernadette says they were very close."

"Okay, so what am I here for?"

Al shook the link, eliciting a series of squeaks from the small box. "We
don't know, yet." Sam rolled his eyes as if to say, `naturally'. "But
the future on Bernadette is pretty sound so far. She lives here for
another six months and then moves up into Kansas to live with her own
daughter until now. So it's either something with Tabitha, or someone
else we haven't encountered yet."

Sam shrugged. "So what am I supposed to do?"

"Well you don't work, so just keep an eye on the little one."

>From her bedroom, they could hear the sounds of her talking aloud as she
played and both men smiled. "I will," Sam vowed.

November, 2000
Stallions Gate, NM

"Gooshie," Al snapped as he came down the ramp from the Imaging Chamber,
"vacation time is over. Get Tina up here to do her job and I want to
know what, if anything, is going to happen to that little girl. If
nothing, find out what Sam _is_ there to do, got it?"

"Yes, sir," Gooshie responded timidly.

Al sighed deeply, realizing he was getting angry at his staff for no
apparent reason, but he had a bad feeling about this leap already, and
nothing really had happened yet. "Good," he stated, more calmly. "I want
the results of your search on my desk in an hour, got it?"

"Admiral?" Ziggy cooed.

He raised an eyebrow towards the orb in the center of the room. "Yes,

"There's a phone call on line 2 in your office."

"Oh, yeah?" He headed out of the Control Room, pulling out a cigar as he
went. "Who is it?"

"She says her name is Celia Gray."

*Celia?* Al thought for several seconds, trying to place the name. It
was a beautiful name, he decided, and distinct enough that he felt sure
he'd remember hearing it before. "What does she want?"

"To speak with Dr. Beckett."

He groaned. He hated these calls. "Why didn't you say that to start off

She sniffed. "I enjoy watching the gears turn."

He approached his office and palmed the scanner to unlock the door.
"Keep it up and we'll see whose gears will be turning. And grinding."
There was no verbal reply, which was response enough in and of itself.
"What does she want? An interview? Payment for an overdue bill? To sell
him a 12 month subscription to Scientific American?"

"She didn't say."

Al sat down at his desk and laid a hand on the receiver. "Yet again, for
a machine of your level of intelligence and foresight, your incredible
lack of common sense is rivaled only by Sam's."

"She's been holding for quite some time now. She may be irate."

He rolled his eyes. "I'm gonna take something apart this afternoon. Just
for kicks." Before she could respond to that, he picked up the phone and
leaned back. "This is Admiral Calavicci. Is there something I can do for

"Is your name also Dr. Beckett?" a woman asked in tart tones.

Apparently, he thought, the melodic beauty of her name didn't match her
personality. "Not today," he responded, grinning at the double-meaning
only he would pick up on.

"I need to speak with Dr. Sam Beckett, please."

"He's busy right now, but maybe it's something I can take care of," he
suggested casually.

Now she laughed. "I wasn't aware he hired admirals for his secretarial

Al stuck the cigar in the corner of his mouth and lit it. "Granted, he
doesn't pay me enough, but it's a job. And what did you say I could do
for you?" he hedged.

"When will he be available?" she questioned, not easily sidetracked.

"Oh, he works at all hours, so it's hard to tell. You just have to kinda
get lucky. In the meantime..."

"No, it's nothing you can help me with, thank you," she responded
quickly, and hung up.