February, 2000
New York City, NY

Sam scrolled past the introduction the list of credentials, and began to
read. It was the first hint of what Al had mentioned at the restaurant
that he'd been able to locate and what he found was not encouraging. The
magazine had few actual facts and details, mostly because they seem to
have been restricted, but did hint at some project nobody seemed willing
or able to talk about. He wondered if it was this timeline's version of
Project Quantum Leap, but there was no way to tell unless he was able to
talk to some of these people interviewed. The name Verbena Beeks caught
his eye and he felt a warm flush of hope and relief at that. Finally, it
seemed, someone he knew and cared about who was supposed to know him.
Surely there had to be some way to track her down.

And Donna. The article stated that Donna had refused to comment on any
of it, probably because they tried to catch her after the memorial
service (briefly, he wondered if he'd be able to handle reading this).
All it said about her was that she had gone back to Illinois to be with
family, which was a start. He remembered her maiden name, and it wasn't
a common one: how many Elysees could there be?

It seemed he also had a partner, a Dr. Gerald Breslauer, who, judging by
his comments, didn't have a prayer of even hoping to measure up to Al's
dedication and friendship. He was also running for a position on the
Senate at the time of the article and Sam didn't get the impression he
was all broken up about their project going under. The only comment he
had to offer was tight and impersonal and Sam read it with increasing

"`I respected Sam Beckett as a professional, but his methods as a
scientist were unorthodox and unpredictable, which was both a blessing
and a curse on his work. As to his current whereabouts, the specifics
are not for public ears, but, wherever he is, he's not coming back.'"

Sounded a little like Quantum Leap to him. Sam closed his eyes against
the cryptic comment, trying not to think what it could mean. He had to
get out of this building, and he had to do it now. He grabbed the papers
he'd copied and walked hurriedly out. Public record could tell him
nothing, he knew. He'd have to talk to people, like Donna.

Sam walked without noting his surroundings, his rapid pace more
indicative of his attempts to escape the suffocating reality closing in
all around him than his eagerness to reach his destination. He just
wanted his life back! He wanted his wife and he wanted his friend.

He rounded the corner to see the Jefferson Building looming in front of
him, and pulled out the pass Al had given him the day before. Someone
escorted him upstairs, warning him as she dropped him off outside Al's
office door: "He's been yelling all morning; I'd watch my step."

At first he'd taken this as exaggeration until he drew closer and peered
in the half-open door to see him standing, back towards Sam, staring out
the window. He was giving someone on the phone a vicious tongue lashing.
"And just who the hell is this nozzle, anyhow, Barry Hamner? Man
probably still has difficulty tying his own shoelaces... No, you listen
to me! Jeremy, I take an awful lot from you. I put up with your threats
and your sour personality and your love of doing things first and
telling me about it after, but this has just crossed the line! You
support this program, _I_ support this program, and now you've stabbed
me in the back. I would certainly never presume to call you more than a
professional partner, but how could you even _think_ I could be-" He
stopped abruptly and started pacing. "Well of _course_ it's my signature
all over everything - I'm the Program Director for goodness' sake!
That's my job!" He turned abruptly and Sam flinched, but Al didn't
beckon him in or signal for him to leave. "Does the word `delegate' mean
anything to you? I don't have time to be looking over everyone's
shoulder all the time."

Sam took several hesitant steps into his office, grateful Al didn't turn
loose some of that anger on him. The way he was feeling, he didn't think
he could take it.

Al eyed him, then looked back out the window. "I'm not taking this
sitting down. You want a war, you've got one." He slammed the phone down
and whipped around to face Sam. "_What_?"

Sam jumped. "I, uh...you told me to meet you here at noon..."

Al glanced at his watch and his voice softened somewhat, but there was
still a dangerous undertone that told Sam not to push anything. "It's
gonna have to wait - I don't have time to talk to you, and I don't have
the focus to pay attention to what you have to say."

He started to push past, but Sam moved in front of him again. "Please,
Al," he said, knowing there was desperation at least on his face, but
not being able to help it. "It's important."

"I don't have time," Al protested.

"Then, could you at least look at this?" he asked, sliding the folder
into Al's hand, the folder that contained the articles in "Time" that,
he hoped, would prove to Al he was who he said he was.

Al sighed deeply, then accepted it. "Look...why don't you come over to
my house tonight, around 7 PM, for dinner. We can talk then, okay?"

Before he could respond, Al was gone. "Okay," he murmured to the empty
air. It was almost like leaping again.


Al plodded in the front door and kicked it shut behind him. "Beth? You
home?" He crossed into the family room and she looked sleepily up at him
from the couch. "Oh, sorry - didn't mean to wake you." He sat down on
the edge of the couch, bent over her, and kissed her deeply (despite
himself, with definite intentions in mind). She laid her fingers against
his neck and smiled when he finally pulled back, bracing himself on the
back of the couch.

"I forgive you," she teased.

"You know, Beth, I'm going to have to sit up before my back leads a

"Oh, I'm sorry," she said quickly, releasing him and pulling herself up
into a sitting position. He did likewise, rubbing his lower back
gingerly. She smiled softly and slid next to him, resting her hands on
his shoulders. "Let me make it up to you?"

He laughed and slid his arms around her waist. "I'm afraid we don't have
time for it. I told Sam to come by for dinner, is that okay? I'll

She was a little disappointed, but kissed him one more time, and then
leaned against the back of the couch, letting her palms rest in the
crook of his elbows. "You didn't talk to him today?"

"No, I...was busy with other stuff."

She squeezed his forearm to get him to look at her. "What other stuff?"
Then she noticed the bags under his eyes and the way his shoulders
sagged. "Al? Oh, you still have that headache, don't you?"

He grimaced. "Oh, yeah," he commented dryly, "that and a huge pain in
the neck named Jeremy."

She sighed deeply. "What did he do now?"

"What did he do?" Al leaned back next to her. "I'm under criminal
investigation, that's what."

"What?!" Her eyes flashed with anger and alarm. "Why on earth are they
doing that?!"

"Missing dough, of course."

"And they think that you-? Al, that's insane. Jeremy of all people
should know you well enough to know that you-"

"Beth, you know as well as I do that he agrees with me when I agree with
him, and no other time. He's been on my back ever since I proposed
expanding the project." He watched reluctant admission cross her face.
"He's never supported me: he's supported the research, which, in a way,
you have to respect."

"Yes, but thinking that you were the one responsible is ridiculous! Why
would he assume it's you?" she demanded angrily.

He shrugged helplessly. "I'm the one who signs the checks and balances.
I'm an easy first target." He continued on before she could voice the
protests rising in her throat. "I don't know what he thinks: if he's
trying to do this by the book or if he honestly thinks I had anything to
do with it, but the only way we're gonna get through this is to

She raised her eyebrows. "Oh, right, like you called him and told him

He laughed reluctantly. "Okay, I may have chewed him out a little..."

"A little?" She smirked. "He's still breathing, right?"

He settled her in his arms. "Oh, sure. The trauma team was one of the

"So Sam's coming over tonight?" she resumed, making him realize just how
concerned she was about Sam being around.

"Oh, yeah, I guess I'd better get going on dinner, then. And there was
something he gave me today..." He untangled himself from his wife
momentarily and pulled the folder from his briefcase. When he opened it,
Dr. Sam Beckett's face stared back at him, younger and more carefree,
more...untainted. There was no mistaking it was the same man. "Son of a
gun," Al breathed, "it _is_ him."

"What?" She pulled the report 45 degrees so she could see it. "He was
telling the truth," she sighed. "What now? Did you find out anything
more about his brother?"

"No, I didn't exactly have time..." He flipped absently through the
photocopies in his hand. "Damn, I wish I knew what he wanted."

"I thought he wanted you to help him find his-"

"There's more to it than that," he stated in no uncertain terms. He
looked briefly at her, thinking of the night before. "I want you to do
me a favor: while he's here, can you try to remember where you know him

She shifted uncomfortably. "I've been trying to think of that all day,
but I... It's something I just don't want to think of."


"I don't know," she returned, and, though he didn't doubt she was
unintentionally lying to him, he felt perhaps she knew she was lying to


Sam arrived a little early, probably because he had noplace else to go.
Beth answered the door when he rang and ushered him into the house, then
joined Al in the kitchen.

"Are you coming out?" she asked him.

He clicked the oven light on, peered at the contents, then nodded.
"Yeah, I'm not needed in here for a while." He took her hand and
squeezed it gently. "You doing all right?"

"Sure, I'm fine," she stated which obviously was a lie; just the way she
said it held tension and anxiety.

"Good," was all he said as he guided her out of the kitchen. He took an
instant to study Sam on the couch before Sam noticed his presence and
stood up. "Dr. Beckett," Al greeted him.

Sam looked relieved as he sat back down across from the couple. "You
read them."

"Well, I must confess I haven't had time yet to read them, but I saw
what you wanted me to see." Al kept one hand on his wife's back, more
for his sake than hers. "And so I'm going to ask you again: where have
you been for the last five years?"

Sam shifted against the yielding cushions of the couch. "I honestly
don't know. I think...it has something to do with my last project, the
one my partner-" he seemed to choke on the word "-mentioned somewhat
cryptically in the second article."

"I'll have to read it more closely tonight," Al replied, feeling again
that he was being told only a half-truth. There seemed to be two layers
to each of Sam's story and he couldn't fathom how that could be. "In the
meantime, I've found a couple people who are familiar with your brother
and are working to track him down. He was a SEAL?"

Sam winced. "Yeah. He was in Vietnam."

Beside him, Beth tensed and he rubbed her back gently. Another
connection: surely this couldn't all be coincidental? Sam didn't seem to
think so, and Beth indicated likewise. All he had to go by were facts,
and, well, those seemed to support their judgment. "He make it out in
one piece?"

Sam flinched again and Al wished he'd stop doing that. "Yes, he did."
The words were quiet and Beth cleared her throat and stood up.

"Al, we'd better check on dinner before it burns," she reminded him, but
in her eyes was a meaning that Al didn't miss and Sam couldn't possibly
have, either.

He trailed her into the kitchen and, as soon as the door closed behind
them, she spun around and gripped his forearms for support. "Beth?"

"I know where I remember him from," she said calmly, but there was fear
in her eyes. "You remember last night I...told you about that day in


"Well, I never told you why I waited. I had...a vision. Well, I thought
it was a vision, but everyone eventually convinced me it was a dream. It
was the following night." She pulled free and started to pace around the
small cooking area. "I dreamt a man appeared in my home just as I was
about ready to stop hoping once and for all, and told me you were alive.
He told me that you were alive and you were coming home."

"Beth, that was over 30 years ago," he reminded her, trying not to sound
condescending. "Are you sure it's-"

"I'm _sure_," she responded with more force and certainty than he'd ever
seen in her before. "Al, he gave me the faith to carry on and I swore,
dream or not, vision or not, that I'd never forget it. I'm positive."

"So, what, this...kid comes to you and says-"

"No, he wasn't a kid. He looked...just like he looks now." She frowned
as she realized what she was saying. "Maybe it was a dream and he
just..." She stopped again and the frown deepened. "Stranger things have

Al stared at her, then turned and marched back out into the living room.
"All right, Dr. Beckett, I've made several shows of good faith," he
announced, dimly aware of Beth standing behind him and to his right,
"and now I not only want to know how you know me, but why my wife
remembers you from 1969."

Sam's expression turned into dread. "Oh, boy..."