February, 2000
Stallions Gate, NM

Al stumbled forward as the physicist vanished, his hands hitting the
seat of the chair at the same time as his knees reached the floor.
Everything seemed to collapse in around him and he closed his eyes,
hearing his own heavy breathing in his ears, rebounding off the empty
walls. He was still for several seconds, and then he stood up and moved
to the active terminal. "Ziggy, where is he?" Al demanded.

The word `Unknown' flashed on the screen and he ground his teeth in
frustration. They couldn't lose him now - not after things were finally
starting to be as they should be. But then, he realized, that was the
business Sam was in: fixing things and moving on. *Can't forget that
moving on part,* he thought bitterly to himself.

"How can we locate him?" Al persisted. He'd promised! He'd promised he
wouldn't leave Sam out there alone and it was a promise he intended to

Ziggy's screen went momentarily blank, and then flooded with
information: scenarios, theories, retrieval possibilities. Al exhaled in
relief; he'd been afraid Ziggy would have nothing, but apparently she
was just as eager to find Sam as he was. "Com'ere," he said to Gerald.

The man, clearly shaken, moved warily beside Al. "What?"

"I'm going to find him. And you're going to help me," Al informed him in
no uncertain terms. The way he saw it, Gerald owed him. "And after we're
done, you're going to turn yourself in and we'll see if we can get you
an easy sentence."

He swallowed and Al could see surprise cross his face. "Thank you."

"Don't thank me yet," he warned. "First we'll see if you can prove at
all useful in getting Sam back. As far as I'm concerned, you owe him,

"What for?" he blurted before he could rethink his position.

"For starters, that you helped head up a project you never really
believed in. And you were hired to support a man you didn't believe in."

Gerald nodded slowly. "You're right. I never believed Quantum Leap
worked. I always figured he'd vaporized himself in that Accelerator..."

Al snorted and started printing up Ziggy's suggestion box. "Well _I_
believe in him. At this moment, I don't really give a damn whether you
do or not, just so long as you help me find him."

March, 2000
New York City, NY

Beth sat curled up in an armchair, reading. Al had been gone for almost
two weeks now, lost in the computer system in Stallions Gate, trying to
find Sam Beckett. The instant Sam had leaped out, he'd called home,
frantic and upset, and she'd spent a good half hour on the phone with
him, trying to calm him down. Then he'd taken some of the leave time
he'd accumulated and vowed not to come back until he'd found a way to
communicate with the scientist.

Now his time was drawing short and he wasn't any closer to finding him
than he'd been two weeks ago. The phone rang and she laid the book she
was reading in her lap and lifted the receiver. "Hello?"


She smiled dimly and glanced at the clock: 5 PM. He was right on time,
as always. "How's it going, Al?"

He exhaled heavily and she heard all the frustration and weariness he'd
been carrying around in that sound. "Not so good. Ziggy still can't even
find a trace of a signal from that implant and she shot out new odds

He stopped and she swallowed tightly, then asked. "How do they look?"

"They're plummeting."

Beth rubbed her eyes and slipped the bookmark into her place, then
closed the hardback, laying it on the floor beside the chair. "Al...I'm

"She says because no-one's synched up to observe, it's probably
impossible to find him and she can't synch me up because she can't find
him. It's the mother of all catch 22s."

She nodded, debating whether or not to say what she had to say. She'd
been married to Al for a long time and knew him well and, though she
heard frustration, sorrow, and anger in his voice, the one thing she
heard very little of was defeat. Instead, she tried for subtlety.
"Jeremy called. You were only granted two weeks' leave - you're supposed
to be back to work the day after tomorrow." Al was silent. She bit her
lip, wondering if he would hate her for what she was about to say. "Al,
don't you think it's time to come home?"

"I can't leave until I find him!" he insisted immediately, fiercely, and
she flinched.

"But you said yourself-"

"Beth!" he interrupted and she subsided from the sharpness in his tone.
"I _can't_! I promised him, and I didn't do it to inconvenience Jeremy -
I did it because Sam needs me!"

She stood up, hesitation pushed aside. "Al, you tried. You did what you
could and it didn't work! You can't help Sam by destroying the rest of
your life - you have to let him go and come home."

"And I can't give up on him, either," Al persisted, bitterness an
unpleasant undercurrent to his words.

"If you were close, if you had more ideas, if the odds were steady..."
She shook her head.

"Beth, he needs me more than-" He stopped just short of completing the
sentence and she dropped back into her chair. "Oh, Beth, I'm sorry..."

She ran her fingers through her hair, sighing. "No, Al, I am. I'm just
worried about you and I know you feel you have to do this, but..." She
paused, then pressed on before he could interject. "I miss you and I'm
worried you're going to destroy yourself doing this. And I just think
it's time for you to come home."

He sighed deeply and she bit her lip, honestly not sure what his answer
would be. "I know."


The first thing Beth noticed as Al disembarked was how tired he looked,
and she was certain that urging him to come home had been the right
thing. A link had been devised to Ziggy, still being fed low levels of
power for basic systems only, from their home computer and he could
continue researching from there. Even with that, to see his eyes after
having accused Gerald of doing exactly what he saw himself as doing was

She kissed him gently when he reached her position, then hugged him
warmly. He looked as if he needed it.

Al clung tightly to her for a moment and then seemed to remember where
they were. He pulled back, but didn't object when she took his hand in
hers and squeezed it. They didn't talk as they threaded their way to
baggage claim and found a location to watch for his solitary piece of
luggage, but, as they waited, he kissed her on her temple and whispered,
"I've missed you." She readjusted her grip and smiled sadly.

She'd missed him, too, but she hadn't wanted him to come home like this,
not under these circumstances.

"Megan called yesterday," she told him, referring to their second oldest
daughter. "She wanted to know if you were going to make it for her

He gazed steadily at her, as if aware that she was just trying to gauge
his mindset. "I'll call her tonight and let her know I wouldn't miss it
for the world."

When he moved forward to get his bag, pulling free from her hold, she
studied him carefully. His shoulders were rounded and his hands as he
reached down were shaking ever so slightly. When he turned back to her
and slung the strap over his shoulder, she noticed the deep set of the
lines on his face and the weariness he didn't bother to try and hide
from her.

She replaced her hand in his as a gesture of support and he exhaled
slowly and waited for her to lead the way to the car. They dumped the
suitcase in the trunk and she nodded to the passenger's side. "I'll

He nodded. "Okay, thanks."

She started the car and he just stared out the window. She let several
long minutes go by, soft music filtering through the interior of the
car, preventing the need to speak, and then reached forward and clicked
off the radio. She didn't even ask if he was ready to discuss anything,
but let the distinct silence assert itself. If Al didn't want to talk,
she knew nothing could make him, but, if he did, he generally needed a
little prodding.

After a while, she wasn't sure he was inclined to say anything at all,
and she just focused on the road, willing to let it go for now, but then
he spoke, softly, still gazing at passing scenery. "Three weeks ago, I
didn't even know him. And now..."

She glanced quickly at him, alerted by the subdued tones in his voice,
then laid a hand on his arm, stroking him gently. "You didn't let him
down, Al. You tried."

He turned his head now to stare straight ahead. "It's not even so much a
matter of blame, it's just...I feel so helpless, Beth. He needs me - he
needs _someone_ - and I can't do anything to help him." She waited,
knowing he just needed time to sort out his conflicting emotions,
knowing that what he really needed now was a sounding board. "It's just
that Sam always gets such an empathic connection with those he leaps
into already...and he gets lost in other people's problems so easily.
I'm not sure he can keep doing this without going crazy." He released
another frustrated sigh. "And I'll never see him again..."

"But you remember him," Beth said firmly, feeling him shift under her
hand. "That's important that somebody remembers him and what he's done."

He nodded slowly. "Yeah..." He pulled her hand from his arm, kissed it,
and then let her go. "Beth, I'm sorry that I left for so long and-"

"It's okay. You did what you had to do and you did it for a friend." He
nodded again, absently. "It's okay," she repeated. "Why don't you relax,
get some sleep or something, and we can talk more about it later?"

Al returned his focus to the window for the remainder of the ride,
neither relaxing nor sleeping. When they got home she led him directly
back to their room, tugging off his jacket. "I don't want to see you
again ‘til you've had at least eight hours' sleep," she stated firmly,
and reached up to loosen his tie.

He lifted his hands to cover hers, stilling their movements, then smiled
wearily. "You've got a deal. Just stop fussing and stop worrying."

She held his gaze unflinchingly. "When you lie down, are you going to
stop worrying about Sam?" she asked quietly. He didn't reply, but they
both knew what the answer was, anyhow. "Then how can you ask me to stop
caring about you, about how you feel and what your concerns are?"

He broke the connection. "Beth, I-"

"I know," she interrupted. She kissed him once. "Get some sleep," she
prompted, then turned to leave him alone.

"I owe him for you," Al said, a little too loudly, and she turned back
to him. His expression changed suddenly, as if he wasn't so sure of
himself anymore. "Don't you think so? Don't you think I owe him for what
he did for us?"

She focused on the carpeting. "I hadn't realized Sam presented you with
a bill for his services," she said quietly.


"What can you do, Al?" she demanded abruptly, lifting her eyes. He was
silent. "Can you bring him back? Can you find him?" She took a step
towards him. "Did you try?"

He closed his eyes briefly. "Yes," he whispered. "I tried. But I

"But you tried. It's all anyone can ask of you."

He stared at her a moment longer, then nodded slowly.

"I know it hurts. All I can say is I'm sorry." She smiled sadly at him.
"I'll talk to you again in eight hours. I love you."

"Love you, too." His voice was hoarse.

She brushed his arm lightly with her fingers and left the room.