January, 2003
Stallions Gate, NM

Al was silent for several minutes, his breathing erratic. Sam held onto
him, but cautioned, "It won't do any good."

"Psychological," Al breathed. "As long as you're holding onto me, I
can't fall off the surface of the world." Sam waited until the spell
passed and Al's muscles loosened.

"Do you need anything?"

Al sat up. The shakes, as he'd called them, were already starting to
abate and it was now just an occasional tremor running through his body.
"Yeah, I... Some water if they let you."

"They'll let me," Sam said sternly and started banging on the door. It
opened immediately. "He needs some water," he told the man on the other
side, though he suspected they'd been listening and knew it already.

Nonetheless, the man eyed them both skeptically as if trying to decide
if the whole scene was some elaborate ruse. Sam wished it was. He
returned with a glass, handed it off to Sam, and closed the door again.

"Here." Sam slid it carefully into Al's hand and watched him as he
sipped it tentatively. "Al-"

Al held up a hand. "If this is the start of some drawn-out apology, I
don't want to hear it. You had no way of knowing what long-term exposure
to this stuff would do. So just stop beating yourself up over it."

Sam shuffled his feet. "I guess we should...think of..." He glanced to
where he knew the hidden camera was located and hesitated. "Or not."

Al looked up and followed the focus of Sam's gaze. "They know we built
this place, Sam. They knew we know what's in this room."

Sam shot him a `Now what?' look and Al shrugged and laid back down.
"Maybe you should get some sleep," Sam suggested worriedly.

"No time. I gotta think."

"Al, it's no use. Weitzman'll be here in less than an hour now. Then
he'll bring formal charges to bear and you and I - and probably Elane -
can all rot in prison."

"There's only one problem with that reasoning."

Sam turned to face him. "What's that?"

"You're dead."

Sam blinked. "Pardon?"

Al leaned on one elbow and clutched his stomach with his other hand. Sam
wondered if they'd be seeing Al's dinner again before this was over. "As
far as the public eye is concerned, you're dead."

Sam grimaced. "I don't think he's doing this for the publicity."

"Sam, I talked to McBride. I spoke with Parker, with various scientists,
even on this project, and they all believe you're dead."

"People on this project?" Sam screwed his face into an expression of
disbelief. "Come on..."

"I'm not talking your big-time players, I mean your general staff here
doesn't even know who's running the show. You are more top secret than
the project."

"But I signed their papers."

"They don't have to know that."

Sam squinted at him. "Why?"

"So Weitzman can use you however he wants." Al looked regretfully at
him. "Dammit, we both just played right into his hands, didn't we?"

"You did? How?"

Al let Sam pull him back into a sitting position. "I always wondered why
he let me back onto the project, why he took Quantum Leap out of my bio.
He wanted me where he could keep an eye on me, where he could help fuel
the conflict between you and I. I think he knew we were at odds and he
was hoping to keep Elane from realizing how close we were. Are." He
frowned as he fumbled with tenses. "He didn't count, though, on you
picking up my battle cry or on me coming back."

Sam still wasn't sure if this was good news or bad news. "So...if he's
not gonna crucify us in court, what _is_ he gonna do?" *Bury us?*

Al stared at the locked door. "I wonder if he knows yet."

Whatever was going to happen, Sam drew some comfort from the fact that
they were in it together, even if it meant Al could get the brunt of it.
He also felt responsible. "Al," he began, then stopped again as the door
opened. "Elane!" Al hit his arm to get him to stop shouting and Sam
glanced nervously up at the hidden camera.

"No-one's monitoring," Elane assured him, coming into the room. Lt.
Collins was right behind her.

Al slid off the bench and Sam grabbed him instinctively, afraid he was
going to end up on the
floor, but Al just looked up at him and smiled forcefully. "See? Better

"Yeah, sure," Sam said disbelievingly, slowly releasing him.

Elane went instantly into the mode of caretaker. "What happened?" she
asked, touching Al's hand and feeling how unsteady he was.

Sam sighed. "It's a long story. How's the Accelerator doing?"

"Coming along nicely, actually. A little over an hour and you should be
ready to go."

Collins stepped forward. "Sir, Dr. Prescott filled me in on times and
locations. I was at the site you need to work from at 0330. I suggest
the simplest thing for you to do is leap into me."

Al nodded heavily. "That's a good idea. Does anyone know she's here?"

"I couldn't avoid it, but I ordered them to keep it to themselves."

Al narrowed his eyes. "Then you'll take the heat for it when the senator
gets here."

"Yes, sir, I probably will." Sam could see respect gleaming in Al's
eyes. "Are you well? I was told about what happened."

"Which was?" Elane interjected, but Al waved them both off.

"I'll be fine." He turned to Sam. "We can't be here when Weitzman

"I know. I guess that only leaves one option."

Elane nodded. "We have to barricade ourselves in the Control Room."

"We?" Sam inquired. "There is no `we' here. _I_ have to."

"Wrong," Al stated firmly. "You're gonna need someone to watch your


"Sam, we don't have time to argue. We have to do this and we have to do
it now, before everything goes ca-ca." He nodded curtly. "Right?"

Sam took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I guess so."

Al straightened and smoothed out the wrinkled suit. "Let's go."


Elane looked up, dread clouding her face. "Sam?"

Sam was bent over a console engaged in final preparations. Al, seemingly
back to normal (or giving an incredibly convincing performance, which
was entirely possible), stood beside him, assisting where he could. It
was Al who looked up at the summons. "What's wrong, Elane?"

Project Quantum Leap had long since been set up with an internal phone
system; in fact, only certain phones were even set up to call outside
the complex. The phone in the Control Room wasn't one of them and it was
the receiver that she had pressed against her palm. "Weitzman's here,
and he wants in."

Sam spared them both a fleeting glance, then focused briefly on Al.
"I'm, ah, just a tad busy..."

Al didn't hesitate. "You keep working. I'll handle it."

"No, Al," Elane hissed, "he doesn't need to know you're here, too."

"Oh, believe me, baby, he knows." He held out a hand. "I'll handle it,"
he repeated. Reluctantly, she passed on the phone and moved to assist
Sam. "Senator," he said, "good of you to join us."

"I knew I'd find you here, Calavicci," Weitzman answered. "You wanna
tell me what's going on in there?"

Al grinned. Stalling was his specialty and they were already in it so
deep that every step further in failed to make any kind of impression on
him. "Oh, we're painting."


"Buttercup yellow, I think it was called."

"Listen to me-"

Al cut him off again, hoping by this point his face was at least a light
shade of pink. "Thought the place looked too sterile, y'know?"

"You're in a hell of a lot of trouble, Calavicci."

Play time was over. "I don't care. You toyed with Sam and then with me.
I can't let you get away with that."

"I've got an army of scientists at work over here and they've found out
exactly what you're up
to. Distracting me won't stop their progress."

"They can't stop it," Al said with a hint of anger. He just hoped it was
the truth.
"What good will leaping do anyone?" He was trying to reason, to talk
them out of it. That was good - it meant his list of alternate options
was short. "He can't affect anything but the future and the instant we
get in there, we're pulling him back."

Al felt a rush of hope. Weitzman didn't know Sam was going into the
past! Mentally, he reined in his relief. He didn't know yet, but if the
senator truly did have a team working (which Al didn't doubt), then it
could be only a matter of time before he knew. "We know what we're doing
- do you?"

To Al's utter amazement, the connection died. Weitzman had hung up. "I'm
not sure," Al said slowly, no small degree of pleasure creeping into his
voice, "but I think I won."

"Good. Because I'm still not ready," Sam replied, not even looking up.

Al glanced towards the door and his eyes widened. Maybe he hadn't won.

"What is it, Al?" Sam's voice had taken on the tone Al always hated -
that of a busy parent too preoccupied to humor his child.

Al rolled his eyes in irritation. "You wanna take a look at this?"

Now Sam glanced up, his hands still hovering over the wires he was
manipulating. He shrugged. "What?"

"That." Al pointed to the metal door, locked securely in place. Around
the edges, the material was starting to glow. They were cutting their
way in.

Elane whispered something Al couldn't make out under her breath and Sam
just turned back to his work, his hands moving a little faster.

"How long do you think, Al?" Elane asked.

He watched the movement of the torch. "I'm not sure. Twenty minutes?" He
sighed. "I just don't know. I never did welding."

The next ten minutes proceeded mostly in silence. Sam and Elane worked
diligently while Al kept looking up from his efforts to watch Weitzman's
progress. Finally, Sam threw up his hands.

Al tossed him a Fermi suit. "We ready? Get dressed."

Sam pulled on the skintight suit hastily, then glanced towards Elane and
froze. It was true, then, that history repeated itself because he could
suddenly recall Donna standing there, watching him as he got ready to
leave her again. He wasn't sure of himself all of the sudden.

"Sam," Al said quietly.

He shook himself free, then he kissed Elane gently. "I love you."

"I love you, too, sweetheart," Al said, smiling, before Sam could even
say anything to him. Al hadn't been there either time Sam entered the
Accelerator and he was starting to wish he wasn't now.

Sam chuckled reluctantly. "Al..."

Showing rare initiative in emotional matters, Al stepped up and hugged
Sam firmly. "I'm proud of you, kid," Al whispered. "Just never forget
who you are and you'll be fine."

Sam blinked rapidly. "I love you, Al."

Al pulled back and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "Get

"I'll be back," Sam vowed. "This time, I'll be right back."

He entered the Accelerator.

+Only 14 and an epilogue left... Sorry this has taken so long to get
out. I hope to have the whole thing out by the middle of next week.