"Basis of Control" pt. XIII October, 1999 Stallions Gate, NM Sam Beckett had gone completely back to sleep after Beth called. Hours had passed since Al had left to take care of...whatever it was he felt he had to do, and Sam had slept the entire time away. In retrospect, he had good reason to be exhausted. It had definitely been a long day. He wasn't sure how far out of his dreams he reached when the Imaging Chamber Door opened, but he faintly recalled Al calling to him. Slowly, he opened his eyes. Handlink on and flashing, Al bent over the bed. "Sam? You awake?" Sam smiled and forced his eyes open. "Al. I'm glad to see you." "Yeah. Same here. I guess you've been waiting for me to show up so you could figure out why you're still here." Al smiled dimly, wearily. The leaper sat cross legged on the bed. "Actually, I was just worried about you. I mean, you only showed up for a few seconds right after the attack and we didn't get the chance to talk." "We don't know why you're still here," Al said, all business, continuing on his earlier train of thought as if Sam hadn't spoken. "Ziggy thinks it may have something to do with-" "Al." "-Redecorating your room or-" "Al," Sam repeated, gently. Al stopped and looked up, then glanced quickly away. This was wrong; everything should be fine, but it wasn't. Al wasn't. "I'm sorry I couldn't do more for you," Sam whispered. "You're - _what_?" Al gaped and Sam shifted uncomfortably. "Sam, you saved Marina's life! Julia's, too, most likely! What more could you possibly have _done_ for me?" "I don't know..." The scientist tried to look into his friend, to gauge how much this leap had really affected him. He could still feel the pain of seeing Al so helpless and scared and he needed to know, before he could lay it to rest, that the admiral was going to be okay. He needed to know that Al didn't feel embarrassed about his actions, that he was at least making the effort to put it all behind him. "I should have known what to say, or..." He shook his head, annoyed at his own inability yet again. Al lowered himself to Sam's level. "Sam," he prodded. "I couldn't have gotten through that without you." Sam looked back up, tears spilling over. "I don't remember all that much about it, honestly, but I do know that you were there and that means everything." His smile was hard won, but he found one for Sam. "Thank you." *I love you, Al.* Sam couldn't bring himself to say it, for some reason, but it was there and he knew Al understood. Al was completely drained and it wasn't going to take much more to push him back into despair, so Sam just brushed Al's image with his hand. Al cleared his throat. "Are you _sure_ you're okay?" Sam persisted. Al straightened. "Oh, sure," he said in a forced cheerfulness. The look in his eyes slowly became comfortingly familiar. "Hey, don't forget who you're talking to here." Sam laughed. "Right." He should have known Al could bounce back from this. Ever since he'd known the man, he'd known he had an inner strength that all but made him invincible. "Uh, listen, Sam," Al said, clearing his throat again, "I'm gonna go spend some time with Julia. Are you gonna be okay?" "Sure, Al. I'll be fine. Unless you find out what's going on, you just sit out the rest of this leap - spend time with your family." "I think I will." He opened the Door. "Bye, Sam." Sam just nodded, relief shining in his expression. The Door slid shut. "She _what_?" Beth cried, amazed. "Shh!" Al motioned to Gooshie and then directed her outside the Control Room. "I'm sorry," Beth said in sarcastic tones. "I could have sworn you just told me that Donna only died five minutes ago." Al gripped her shoulders, but she didn't want comfort, she wanted explanations. She'd been kept in the dark for so long - he had lied repeatedly to her, but then implored her to trust him. At first, she didn't, but it wasn't because she didn't trust Al, but because she feared it wasn't Al to begin with. That memory alone made her stomach twist into knots. Once that had been brought into the blinding light of day, she'd deposited all her faith and trust like an offering at Al's feet. And she still did trust him, but she was also angry. "Beth, I'm sorry. I wanted to tell you, I really did. Especially when you thought I was a leaper. We were so scared for the kids and it hurt me to have to lie to you, but-" "Okay, Al," she said in a calming voice, cutting off his rush of explanations. "Just tell me." "It was because of Donna. She didn't want anyone to know... I'm the only one at the project who does. Donna...had cancer. It developed shortly after Sam leaped. That extra time she was taking wasn't all burn out or worry - she was with a specialist in Boston." The rest of her anger vanished and she reached for him. "Oh, Al... How could she not have told us?" Beth asked softly, squeezing his hand. "The night before this mess started, when I got the fax, she got an identical one. By this point, she wasn't doing so well. She was practically bedridden and the doctors told her there wasn't anything more they could do, that she'd just have to ride it out. She was in a lot of pain, but she refused to go to a hospital. With all the problems with Ziggy and then the fax, she worked herself into quite a state. Do you remember when she called, right after we talked to Emma?" Beth nodded, mesmerized. "That's when it all started." ^"Donna?!" Al opened the front door a little further as he stepped inside. He'd hated to leave Ziggy in the middle of repairs, but he was the one who'd insisted Samís wife no longer drive, especially now. "Donna, hon, are you here?" He knew she could hear him upstairs, which was where she probably was. She hadn't sounded too good on the phone. He laid the things he'd picked up for her on the kitchen table and went back to the front of the house to go upstairs to her room. When he glanced up, she was standing at the top of the stairs. "Al?" She didn't look well at all and her whole body trembled with the effort of standing. "Al, I've made a decision." "Sweetie, you really should get back to bed," he said gently, climbing the stairs. Suddenly, she swayed precariously as a wave of dizziness washed over her. She grabbed for the railing, missed, and slipped off the first step. She fell, a startled cry emerging as she crashed straight into Al, who reached desperately for her. He wrapped an arm firmly around her waist and they tumbled against the wall halfway up the stairs, Al's right arm connecting painfully with the railing. Before they had even regained any balance, she started sobbing. "Okay, okay," he whispered, half to himself, half to her. He lowered the both of them until they were sitting on the steps. "Are you all right?" She shook her head, tears falling on his shoulder as she was overcome with physical and emotional pain. "It's okay, baby." He put one hand on her cheek, wiping away the moisture there. Donna pulled away from him, but he kept a supportive arm around her shoulders. "Al," she murmured shakily, "you've been such...a blessing. To me and Sam." "Just doing my job," he said with a small smile. "I have to go, Al." She had mentioned this before, but he'd talked her out of it. The cancer could be beaten, he'd said. And she'd almost trusted him when he'd said it. "No, you're just upset because of this nut, but I won't let him do anything to you, okay? To any of you." "You almost have me convinced that you believe that," she said softly. "Besides, I thought I saw someone hanging around the house the other day." "Look, Donna, leaping isn't going to solve any problems. It'll just mean that there are two people to keep track of. And when he finally comes home-" "I wouldn't be here anyway," she pointed out. "Al, the doctors say-" "Doctors," he muttered with a derisive snort. "Since when do doctors know anything?" "Your wife is a doctor," she reminded him. Al didnít reply. "They say it'll be a couple more months, at best." "Donna, you never gave up on him; don't give up on yourself." He forced a smile, but it didn't touch his eyes. "Besides, you don't want to make that much more work for me, do you?" "I don't want an observer." "Are you nuts?" he exclaimed. "No offense, but your condition isn't exactly..." He motioned fiercely with his hand. "You'll never make it." She looked sorrowfully at him. "I'll never make it here. Maybe it's just time to let destiny take its course." "Donna..." "You said Sam was always cured when he leaped. I mean, who knows? It could happen the first time I leap out." "Then you'd still be stuck out there. Let me at least talk this over with Beth, you know, get a second doctor's opinion. Or Verbena." "No." She sighed and fingered the corner of her shawl absently. "I don't want anyone to know. I don't want anyone to know about the cancer or about me leaping. And I don't want anyone trying to find me." Personally, Al thought her judgement was impaired. "Why?" "It's just...something I have to do myself." "And if Sam does come home," Al said quietly, painfully, "how am I going to tell him that his wife leaped after him and I let her?" "There's got to be a time when you stop taking responsibility for me." "You are my responsibility," he countered solemnly. He'd always felt that way. "I'm not one of your children, Al. I'm a grown woman." "So act like it!" he cried, suddenly angry. He pulled his arm from her shoulders. "Make a reasonable decision!" "What if I don't have any reasonable choices?" she countered evenly. "What's it going to take to change your mind?" She smiled sadly. "A miracle." *Sam normally handles those.* "So what am I going to tell everyone else at the complex? That you just went on a really long vacation?" He wiped his face with one hand, then leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. She touched his back carefully. "No. Not a vacation." From that point on, Al knew he really was not going to like this.^ "She leaped," Beth repeated slowly. "And now Sam's back." "Not for good, but, yeah." He wouldn't look at her. She wanted to comfort him, but she still didn't understand it. "She was never shot?" "No. But the guy was hanging around her and, given some time, she could have been." "Al..." Beth reprimanded. "What about the hospital calling and telling us she'd died?" He shrugged. "Wasn't the hospital. It was a friend of mine." She nodded slowly. "That's why you didn't bring her to Quantum Leap. I always thought that was odd." His face took on a wry expression. "Well, I did, but not for that." "Who did she leap into?" "I don't know. A body never appeared in the Waiting Room, but Ziggy said she was out there somewhere." "You tried to find her in spite of what she told you to do, didn't you?" He swallowed. "I couldn't face Sam knowing I didn't at least try-" "Okay," she whispered, hugging him tightly. "See?" she said tenderly against his shoulder, "I told you it wasn't your fault. You did what she wanted, Al, and that was the greatest gift you could have given to Sam." He buried his face in her hair and sighed gently. "You are the most perfect woman," he murmured. "And you're the most perfect friend, Al. To all three of us. Don't ever tell yourself otherwise." "Sam," Al said with a start, pulling back. "I didn't mean to leave him for so long, but I was in the Imaging Chamber trying to get a neuron lock." "Right," she said, releasing him. Something in her tone stopped him and he turned back to her. "I don't mean to put him above you," he said in low tones. She glanced back up at him. "He needs you more," she replied simply. The conversation had taken an uncomfortable turn. He leaned forward and kissed her passionately. "I love you," he whispered. "Then don't feel guilty about anything, Al."