Part II

February, 2000
New York City, NY

Sam sighed as he watched Meredith go, then stood still outside the Jefferson 
Building, hoping maybe that would be it and he'd leap. The seconds ticked by 
and he remained where he was, much to his utter dismay and frustration.

*Where are you, Al?*

He briefly pondered going in after Meredith - he had the feeling she had 
something to do with why he was New York, but then decided there was nothing 
more he could do for her now. He turned absently away from the skyscraper 
and barely registered the blaring of a car horn, but he certainly felt the 
wind being knocked out of him as he landed hard on the cement.

People were starting to crowd around him almost instantly and then someone 
pulled him to his feet. His hands stung where the skin had been abraded and 
he still couldn't breathe easily, but, unless shock was covering for 
something, he felt okay. The driver, understandably nervous, tried to hand 
him a business card while apologizing repeatedly. Sam brushed him off. "It's 
okay - I'll be fine. It was my fault." At Sam's admission of guilt, the 
driver, no longer fearing a lawsuit, departed the vicinity hurriedly before 
he could change his mind. Maybe this was the reason he was here. He held his 
breath, waiting, but nothing happened.

"Sam? Sam, are you all right?" It was Meredith.

Sam nodded unsteadily as he walked through the thinning crowd. "Yeah. I'll 
be fine... Just got a little scraped up."

A familiar figure in a charcoal suit (complete with the pink shimmering tie) 
bent over him as he sat heavily on a bench. "Hey, you okay, kid?"

Relief flooded his senses - finally! "Al!"

His observer looked startled then put a hand on Sam's shoulder. The contact 
left Sam momentarily speechless, but not motionless. Without stopping to 
think what Al could possibly be doing in New York or wondering if he could 
see Sam as Sam, he stood and hugged him tightly. It had to be a gift, this 
leap, a gift from God, fate, time, or whatever had read his resume and 
decided that he got this job. Sam breathed a silent `thank you' to whatever 
was responsible for him being able to touch his best friend again.

Al pulled back more quickly than Sam had expected and he wondered if, for 
some reason, he appeared as someone else. He'd checked the reflection, 

"I'm, uh..." Al laughed slightly and Sam saw Meredith looking back and forth 
between them. "You obviously know me, but..." He shrugged, trying to find a 
tactful way to rebuff Sam's warm reunion.

"Al...of course you know me... It's me! It's Sam." The leaper stood still, 
waiting for the inevitable realization to cross his friend's face. He didn't 
get it.

Al backed off another step, uncertainly. "I'm sorry... What do I know you 

Sam dropped his hands to his side, feeling his reality crumble around him. 
Unless... "What year is it?" Maybe the newspaper had been wrong - maybe it 
was just all a joke...

Al tilted his chin up. "Maybe you should let me drive you to the 

"No, please! Just tell me!" His desperation must have shone through because 
the stranger with his friend's face frowned.

"It's 2000."

Sam was silent, scrambling to grasp at his life as it fell apart, dissolving 
in the harsh light of confusion and reality. Al, who most surely would have 
let this conversation go a while back, stared at him worriedly, letting the 
scientist know that he must have looked bad.

"Admiral?" Meredith asked hesitantly at Sam's disappointed expression.

He nodded to her. "Have Patrick show you around - and tell him I'll handle 
Chapelle, okay? I'll, uh, figure this out and come up to get the remainder 
of the formalities out of the way soon." He managed a small encouraging 
smile. "Trust me - it's always this hectic around here."

She looked hesitantly at Sam, then nodded and withdrew.

Sam's mind was reeling; the paper had been right, it was the year 2000. Why 
didn't Al know him? "This can't be happening..."

Al's look of concern was unmistakable. "Look, at least let me drive you by 
my wife's office. She's a doctor and-"

"Who?" Sam interrupted sharply. And then he remembered - remembered telling 
Beth to wait, convincing her that her husband was alive. had 
apparently worked, but at what price? *Everything has a price. Vietnam 
demonstrated that.*

"My wife," Al repeated patiently. Sam glanced down and saw the gold band on 
Al's ring finger. "Come on-"

"No! I don't need a doctor," Sam protested in despair that came out as 

Al backed off. "Okay, okay..." His stance indicated that he felt he'd 
fulfilled his civic duty, but he didn't depart. Something kept him there. 
"Can I drive you home?"

With the kind offer came 1000 realizations: he wasn't going to hear from 
Project Quantum Leap, he may never leap "out" (he may even have been home in 
a world more foreign to him than leaping ever was and done with leaping 
forever), unless he was able to contact someone who did know him, he was 
never going to find his family again, and he had no home. That, and Al 
didn't know him. How was he ever going to live with all those years erased?! 
It was more than just his best friend not knowing him, though the pain from 
that ongoing realization made Sam want to just sit down and give up, but 
Sam's entire reality always seemed to consist of unknowns and he could 
handle that for two reasons: first, he was making a difference, and, second, 
he always had his observer as a lifeline back to where things made sense. 
Well, he'd followed that lifeline home and discovered it didn't make sense 
after all, then he'd turned around and the line was gone. And so, it seemed, 
has his ability to change anything for the better. What was he here for?! "I 
don't have anywhere to go."

"Oh," Al said quietly and Sam knew what he was thinking. "If there's nothing 
I can help you with, I...I'm sorry, but I have to get back to work."

Sam wanted to plead with him not to go, beg him to remember. Al had been 
linked for five long years, aware of every change - why couldn't he now?! "I 
know." He knew he had to let his friend go. He'd fixed Al's marriage, given 
him the life he'd wanted - he couldn't take that away, not with the truth. 
Not only that, but seeing the blank gaze in Al's eyes, devoid of the bond 
they'd shared for so many years, missing the mutual understanding of trust 
and faith and strength, was more painful than the thought of never seeing 
them again. To cling to what was no longer there could destroy them all. 
"Good-bye, Al," he said, ignoring the tightness in his throat. And there, 
the decision was made - the hardest thing Sam had ever had to do, done in 
under five minutes. "Thank you for everything you've done for me." He 
brushed away the one tear he couldn't control and turned his back on Al.


Al dropped the briefcase just inside the front door. "Hello?" he called and 
immediately wished he hadn't. His head was throbbing. No answer came and he 
figured she just wasn't home, yet. He plodded straight back to his room, 
pulling off his jacket as he went, and then lowered himself slowly into a 
prone position on the bed, kicking off his shoes and loosening his tie only 
after his head had (gently) hit the pillow.

He closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep, but even the silence seemed to 
be pulsating through his brain. It had been a hell of a day - two hours on 
the phone with Jeremy Chapelle yelling in one ear and Patrick sitting in 
front of him. Chapelle was always yelling and he was disagreeable at best, 
but at least Al never had to fear for lack of support from him. Oh, sure, 
he'd threaten Al, but this was as much his dream as Al's and when someone 
else started laying on the pressure, he was adamant in backing the program. 
It was sort of a mixed blessing.

"Al?" Beth came into the room and peered curiously at him as she deposited 
her things on the desk just inside the doorway. "You're back early."

He opened his eyes. "I think I'm halfway to a migraine."

She drew the shades and sat down beside him on the bed, slipping off her 
shoes. "I'm sorry. That better?"

"It helps, thanks," he said quietly, nestling a little deeper into the 
bedcovers around him. She bent over and kissed him lightly in greeting. "How 
was your day?" he asked.

She laid her hand on his shoulder, gently kneading his tired muscles. "Long. 
And we had this incredible paperwork snafu that slowed things up for almost 
three hours, so we only got half done of what we needed to finish." She 
looked intently at him. "Roll over," she commanded, pushing him onto his 
stomach and starting a full-out massage on his back. "Which tense spot is 
this: Jeremy or Patrick?"

"I've got one for each," he sighed. "Beth, you're an angel."

"Tell me about it," she encouraged stoutly. "How was your day?"

"Bizarre. We got our newest crew member today - Meredith Hasler. She's a 
little uptight at first, but she seemed competent. Plus her past work 
impressed the hell outta me; I'm sure she'll fit in nicely. Besides, I need 
someone on my side to deal with Patrick all the time!"

"Sounds like a typical day for you," she remarked. "You should invite her to 
dinner some night, get her settled. As for you, you're probably not getting 
enough sleep. Good thing it's Friday. I'm not going to let you leave this 
bed all weekend."

He moved to look at her, capturing her gaze with a very purposeful one of 
his own. "Promise?"

She laid down alongside him, propping her head on her upturned hand. "Do you 
want to start the weekend now?"

He winced at the stabbing pain in his head. "I'll have to settle for 
tomorrow. I really do have a headache."

"Oh, so that's how it's going to be."

"Beth, honey, that's a woman thing. You don't find men claiming physical 
pain to _avoid_ sex. As a pity plea, sure, but..." He smiled faintly.

"Well, you have my pity." She kissed his forehead. "And, apparently, nothing 
else. Do you want me to get you some Advil?"

"In a while, maybe." He stared at her. "Have I told you lately how beautiful 
you are?" he asked, brushing her hair away from her face. And she was - 
she'd always been beautiful.

"You told me this morning, like you do every morning," she responded, taking 
his hand and intertwining her fingers with his. "Is something bothering you, 
Al? You look kind of distant."

"I'm just tired," he hedged.

She sighed deeply. "So do we go back and forth for 20 minutes while your 
headache gets worse or are you just going to tell me what's going on now?"

He chuckled softly. "Ouch. Am I getting that predictable?" She just raised 
an eyebrow: `you're still stalling' the action said. "I met Meredith today, 
right? On the first floor of the office building, and suddenly we heard a 
horn blaring and someone was hit by a car. So I went outside to make sure 
everything was okay - you know how people in this city look, but never seem 
to involve themselves - and there was this guy standing there and the driver 
was falling all over himself apologizing. The guy insisted he was fine even 
though he looked a little shaky, and then Meredith ran up to him and called 
him `Sam'. She told me later he'd helped her find the building and she'd 
never seen him before then." She nodded and indicated for him to continue. 
"So I went up to him and asked if he was all right and..." He paused again, 
trying to explain what he'd felt in words. "And he just looked at me, called 
me by name, and hugged me as if...I don't know."

She frowned. "Well...who is he?"

"I don't know - that's just the thing! Especially because he wasn't greeting 
me like, `Hello, remember me? We met at a party once back in the Academy 
days', but it was more like, `Remember when you saved my life while I was 
being mugged and we've been friends ever since?' It was just eerie and, 
Beth, I have no clue who he is!" She squeezed his hand lightly and he 
refocused on her. He'd missed her so much... *You saw her this morning 
before work,* he reminded himself sourly. *Great, maybe I am going senile.*

"Maybe it was mistaken identity."

"No... He said my name and no-one else would have said it so he could 
overhear. Besides...he knew me, Beth." He sat up slightly, a reflection of 
her own pose. "I don't mean he knew who I was, I mean he knew..._me_." Al 
could still see those green eyes staring straight into his heart. It was 
unnerving, to say the least. "How could anyone know me that well without me 
remembering them?"

She hesitated. "Vietnam, maybe?"

He was doubtful. "I suppose it's possible, but he looked a little too young, 
if you ask me." He hesitated. "Maybe borderline. Either way, I still don't 
remember the face or the name."

She untangled her hand from his and laid it briefly on the side of his face. 
"You've blocked out a lot from there. Maybe you blocked him out, too."

"Maybe. But there was something else about him..." He trailed off, knowing 
she would ask.


"When I didn't recognize him, I felt like I'd just kicked a lost puppy. He 
had the most torn expression." She sighed, probably realizing he wasn't 
going to be able to get this man out of his mind. "He was crying when he 
said good-bye - said he didn't have anywhere to go, but walked off anyhow, 
looking as if he'd just lost his best friend."

*So why do I feel the same way?*