Part V

June, 2002
Washington D.C.

"Mind if I join you?"

Al glanced up to see the woman he had seen Sam with in the airport. She
smiled sweetly at him from beside the table he was having lunch at. He
stood. "Please." In spite of the fact that she'd signed his papers to
join up, it was the first time he'd spoken with her.

"I'm Elane Prescott," she said, offering her hand.

He kissed it. "I figured that."

She sat down across from him, blushing slightly. Then her eyes widened.
"I've seen you before - in the airport."

He winced, reclaiming his seat. "Yeah, that's me." She didn't ask what
had happened, to her credit.

"So you know Sam - Doctor Beckett?"

"You could say that. We worked together on Project Quantum Leap. Didn't
you see that in my dossier?"

She leaned forward and folded her arms, resting them on the table. "No.
Weitzman probably removed it."

*That man's got a hand in everything that goes on here,* Al thought
dryly, filing the information away. *He's got way too much control.*

"So why have me approve this, not him?" she asked.

"Can I ask you something?" he said, avoiding her question.

She nodded and he grinned slightly, appreciating her open nature and
frank assessment of everything. "Sure."

"You and Doctor Beckett are partners, right?"

"That's right, yes." When he hesitated, reluctant to get into a heated
debate when they'd just met, she merely studied him with sparkling eyes
and said, "What's on your mind, Admiral?"

"Oh, I'm not in the Navy anymore. Besides, I'd feel more comfortable if
you'd just use my first name."

The smile widened slightly. "Only if you call me Elane."

He nodded. "If you're helping head up this project, surely you know what
a dangerous and serious mistake it is."

Her expression remained neutral. "In what way?"

"Well...going into the future... I mean, do you really trust anyone with
that kind of power?"

She held out a hand. "Now, wait a minute, Al. What if we do this and
they've found answers to diseases or ways to-"

"What if they know who'll win elections or where the money is going to
go? What they could do...and what it would do to that future..." He
sighed deeply. "It's a mistake," he said firmly.

"Not if it's handled correctly," she challenged. "Sam went into the past
and changed things."

"But that was never our intention. We didn't go into it intending to
change anything!"

"But you did," she emphasized, her hair swinging over her shoulders as
she gestured, "and it was
done correctly."

Al groaned and leaned back in frustration. "You don't get it, either.
You and Sam both - geniuses blinded by enthusiasm."

"Who said I was a genius?" she asked with self-assured calm.

"Just a feeling."

She raised an elegant eyebrow. "Your wife doesn't mind you coming on to
other women?" She laughed lightly to show she was kidding, but he felt
the color drain from his face.

"I'm not married." She glanced down to where his hands rested on the
tabletop and he moved his right hand over his left and the wedding ring
he still wore.

"Oh," was all she said.

"Look, Elane, I'm sure you don't mean any harm by what you're
attempting, and I know Sam doesn't, but that's what's going to happen.
And it's a wrong that may never be reversed."

"If you believe that so adamantly, why are you here?"

He didn't even pause to consider the question, but, in the following
weeks, it would haunt him. "I have my reasons."

July, 2002
Washington D.C.

The next month went by in tense sluggishness. Al spent hours behind his
desk working and, when he wasn't balancing their substantial budget or
figuring estimated needs, he was writing lengthy letters to Congress,
detailed reports about how the project shouldn't be allowed to continue.
Not for one minute did he see his actions as a conflict of interest. He
was fulfilling both what his job description and his conscience

Any necessary contact with Sam seemed to occur either through the
computer or via memos that traveled with alarming frequency back and
forth. The work also gave Al the opportunity to immerse himself and
forget about the outside world for a while. It was a numbing, effective
anesthetic, though not a healthy one. Inside of him, the hurt was still

Al was working after hours on his latest report when he heard a knock on
his office door. "Yeah, what?" he asked impatiently.

The door opened and a very solemn Sam Beckett walked through. "We have
to talk," he said firmly.

Al bit back a harsh reply. There was no point in rekindling old
arguments, especially when they were both so adamant in their respective
positions. "Have a seat," he said instead, but Sam stood behind his desk
and slapped a stack of papers in front of him.

"I just got this enormous fax from Weitzman."

All he had to do was glance at the top page to know it was a copy of his
latest in the series of volleys in protest. "He sold me out, huh?"

"Why are you trying to sabotage me?" he demanded.

Al remained passive. "You know why."

"Yeah, I know you disapprove, but you work for me, now."

Al sighed deeply, remembering a time when he'd worked with Sam, not for
him. The brief flash in Sam's eyes told Al that he hadn't intended the
words to actually leave his mouth. "I told you, someone's got to keep an
eye on what's going on. If neither you nor Elane can see it, then I'll
do it. Besides, you'll need someone to observe."

"You know, Al, you're not the only one who's had it rough the last
couple of years. I come home to find that my wife is dead and I can't
communicate with my best friend." Sam took an unsteady breath. "Somehow,
with those two simple acts, the committee's got more leverage over me
than ever before. God, Al, don't you think I _wanted_ to tell you? You
don't understand what's going on here." Al started to speak, but Sam
sank heavily into the chair. "So many times, I just thought ‘screw the
committee' - so many times, I couldn't remember exactly why I agreed to
their terms, how I let everything get so out of hand. I just - I just
don't understand why you're here."

"I wish you could. It'd make things easier."

The expression on Sam's face was tormented and Al felt a brief flash of
regret. "Look...I know I did a terrible thing to you and I can't change
it, not now, but I don't know what else to do. I've tried, you've got to
believe that - God knows I've tried!" Sam leaned forward. "Al, I'm
sorry. I'm sorry! And I can't go on like this."

It was a fight to maintain a stoic expression. "But at the same time,
you're going to continue here."



"Because...because it's a new frontier, because it's never been done,

"There are good reasons not to do it, too," Al pointed out.

"Not good enough."

Elane's words came back again, ringing in his ears as if she'd just
spoken them. Al didn't realize yet that the reason he was there was
something he had yet to admit to himself. There was a part of both men
that would do anything to prevent the death of their friendship - it
just wasn't strong enough to push past the betrayal. Not yet. "I'm not
sure we have anything more to discuss."

Sam dropped his gaze. "I guess not."

As he left the room, Al came to an abrupt decision. He picked up the
phone and dialed. It rang twice before anyone answered. "Hello?"

"Hey, Marina, it's me," Al said calmly.

"Dad, I've been trying to get hold of you, but you're never home and the
machine hasn't been picking up."

He leaned back. "Yeah, well I've been out of town. Listen, I've been
thinking a lot about what you said to me when I came up..." He paused,
but she was silent. "And I think it's time I come up there. There's
really nothing left for me here now. Besides, I'd like to be there when
Elizabeth is born," he said with a smile.

"You're welcome to come up any time."

As he spoke, he called up a new file on the screen. "Well, I've got to
put the house on the market and tie up some loose ends, but I'll shoot
for, say, three months."

"That'd be perfect," she said enthusiastically.

"I'll give you a call this weekend," he assured her. As soon as the
conversation ended, he started typing his resignation, aware of how
pleased Weitzman would be with the latest development, but unaware that
Sam had heard the conversation from outside his door.

July, 2002
Northfield, MN

Al washed another plate and smiled knowingly. "I'm not packing, Verbena,
that's what movers are for."

She dried the dish as he handed it to her and glanced around the living
room. "Then how come it looks like a warehouse in here?" Order and care
and memories had been reduced to a barricade of cardboard boxes, all
sealed tightly, like the wall Al had erected around himself.

"That's all the stuff I'm getting rid of."

She dried the last cup and wandered over to the boxes as he wiped down
the counters. "What are these?" she asked, picking up the stack of
letters Marina had given him. They were resting atop a sealed box.

He looked up, then crossed the room to take them from her. "Nothing." He
laid them back down,
feeling so much more the coward for not having read them yet.

Someone rang the bell and he nodded to Verbena. "Get that, willya?"

"When are you planning to leave?" she asked as she walked away.

"Depends on when I get the house sold. I'll try and get rid of a lot of
this stuff first, though. Give it to charity or something."

"Uh-huh." She opened the door and he heard her gasp all the way in the
kitchen. "Sam!"

*That kid doesn't give up, does he?* Al dried his hands and moved into
view to see them embracing. He stood silently, watching until Sam pulled
back and looked over her shoulder at him.

"Verbena, I know we have a lot to talk about," he said sedately, "but
can you give us a few minutes?"

She glanced at Al, who gave her no clue as to what he wanted her to do.
She smiled slightly. "I have to be getting back, anyhow. Here's my
number, Sam," she added, handing him a card. "Don't let another two
years go by, anyway."

"Sure, I'm sorry," he added, kissing her on the cheek.

She left and Al held back a sigh, folding his arms and tilting his chin
up. "Sam...I have a lot of work to do."

"You quit." Sam said the words as if he couldn't believe such a thing
could happen. He was frozen inside of the doorway, aware of just how
unwelcome he was, of how unwelcome he'd been when he last left this

"Yeah," he said defiantly, "I quit. I'm entitled to do that."

"Why?" Sam challenged, advancing several steps into the room, pushing
both Al and himself with the movement. "You never quit anything!"

"I quit trying to get you back."

"After 1 1/2 years!" he argued. "You've been on the project, what, a
Al shrugged. "I'm tired."

Sam made a sound of disgust. "What kind of reason is that?"

"A damn good one, that's what. I'm _tired_, Sam. I'm tired of fighting
in wars I can never win, I'm tired of being around people I can't care
about, I'm tired of seeing your face and being reminded of what I lost,
I'm just - I've reached the end of my stamina." Al waved one hand
through the air. "You said I fought for a year and a half and you're
right, I did. But that kind of determination takes a lot out of a
person. Losing people you love takes a lot out of you!"

"Okay," Sam said heavily, putting his hands out in front of him. "You're
right about the project, okay?"

Al stared at Sam and, in the decade he'd known the man, he'd known him
to be a terrible liar. And he knew Sam was lying now. "What are you
doing, telling me more stories? In hopes of a reconciliation? I don't
know you anymore, Sam Beckett." He turned away and wandered into the
dining room. He spoke calmly and he moved confidently, but inside he was
shaking. The small amount of control he had was fragile and precarious
and he knew one tip in the wrong direction, and it would be gone

Sam followed him. "I don't know, Al! You tell me! We've had our problems
in the past - why is this so different?"

"Because..." Al shook his head and faced the hallway to his bedroom.
"It's not the project, it's that...I don't trust you anymore. I mean, I
still don't agree with what you're doing, but...you hurt-" He stopped
short of completing the thought. "Whatever reasons you had for doing
what you did, they aren't good enough." Abruptly, he whipped around to
face Sam. "Why did you come, Sam?"

"I don't know..." Al could see that was the truth. "I just...I heard you
were moving and that you'd turned in your resignation-"

"Yeah, I'm going to live with my daughter." *Just say it. Tell him he
broke your heart. He's the closest friend you've ever had - you think he
wouldn't care? That he wouldn't hurt with you? First Beth and now-* Al
cleared his throat, wiped the thought away. *Beth is dead. And Sam's
not.* Sharply, Al was reminded of the reason they were at odds. *Part of
the reason, maybe, but not the real reason.*

"-And I...I guess I just couldn't leave things the way we did."

Al exhaled heavily and ran a hand across his face. "You have to
understand, Sam, that I...I'm not trying to be difficult or hold a
grudge. It's just - there comes a point where you have to protect
yourself, y'know? It becomes sink or swim and one more direct hit and
you're going to go under. Well, that's where I am right now." *You hurt
me.* He'd said it in anger, before he'd realized how true it was - why
couldn't he say it in sincerity? Who was sparing who to keep truth
hidden? But he hadn't ever said it, not really. Hinted at it, indicated
it without words, but he'd never said it.

Sam took a hesitant step forward, as if he had a huge weight on him that
he just couldn't shake. He knew it, too. He knew the truth. "Al..." he
whispered. "I'm sorry."

"I know you're sorry," Al replied evenly. "You don't have to keep

"But I...I don't know what else to do to make this right."

Al laughed without humor. "Two years home and the kid's still leaping,"
he muttered to no-one in particular. "Do you remember what I told you
when you leaped into Elk Ridge in the middle of that bank robbery? At
the end?"

Sam shrugged apologetically. "I don't know...some of the details are
still fuzzy, even now."

Al adopted a look that was decidedly paternal. "They can't all be happy
endings, Sam." *If only it was that simple.*

He could see Sam's world crumbling in his eyes. "Al...please..."

"Sam, I really do have a lot of things to do," he said gently, turning
to go.

"They were going to leap you," Sam called out bluntly. Al stopped in his
tracks. "Al, they wanted you to go and me to stay behind. I couldn't let
them do that, and this was the only condition that they...would agree
to. They wanted you as a leaper or not at all and if you'd known..."

"Sam, they don't have the power to do that. They lied to you."

"But they said-"

"They lied to you," Al repeated. *Why can't you accept it? Why can't you
accept _him_? You know he-* "And even if they hadn't, it was still my
decision to make, to come on the project or not. You can't make my
decisions for me."

"But, Al-"

"You should have told me, Sam," he said angrily. "They lied so they
could get their way, and get me out of the way. They set you up."

He heard Sam exhale heavily from behind him. "So they could control

"Exactly. And you let them." Al started to walk away again, signaling
the end of the conversation.

But Sam refused to let it close. "Where are you going to go?"

"I told you," Al said, sweeping up the letters and tucking them into his
jacket pocket, then turning back to Sam, "to live with my daughter."

"Where does she live?" Sam pressed. "How can I find you if..." He
trailed off and dropped his gaze.

"If you need me?" Al finished for him. "You won't need me, Sam." *I
wonder if you ever really did.* "You've done everything on your own for
two years. Just promise me you won't observe."

"I plan to leap," Sam responded stubbornly.


"So you're just going to bury the past?"

"I did it twice. What's once more?" Al shrugged. "Maybe its the coward's
way out, I don't know. But whatever I was doing before didn't seem to

"And what if Beth was alive? Would it be different then?"

Al felt the letters in his pocket, felt the pain in his heart. "How can
I answer that? Can you tell me what you would have done differently if
Donna was alive?" *What would I have done differently had I known you
were alive?*

"No," Sam conceded quietly.

"For what it's worth, Sam, I'm sorry you had to go through that loss by

Sam met his gaze from across the room, filled with boxes of memories and
meanings - packed up to be given away. And reluctant acceptance flowed
across Sam's features. "At least, this time... At least I get to say
good-bye." He shuffled his feet like a shy child. "I wish I could change

"Don't do anything stupid," Al cautioned. This was it. He was turning
Sam away for the last time and for what? Pride? Hurt? Principle? Or just
because, like a wounded animal, Al Calavicci could never learn to trust

"I think - I think I'm finally beginning to see just how much I hurt
you," Sam whispered. `Please say it,' Sam's eyes begged. `End this. Fix

Al released a heavy breath. "Just go, okay? My God, just - just go." He
turned slowly so he couldn't see Sam's tears and so he could hide his
own, and retreated to the back of the house, leaving Sam to find his own
way out.