Episode 807

I Will Love You Forever Part 1

by:  A. J. Burfield and Katherine Freymuth

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The bluish haze grew and faded, lightning ebbing from the form of Sam Beckett as he blinked at his surroundings. Usually a leap started with confusion as to where and when he was.  However, this time, his surroundings looked strangely familiar.  They weren't exactly the way he thought they should be; first of all it was really dark.  But yet...he knew all this stuff.  Then it hit him. 

 "This is the Project!"  He whispered to himself.  "I don't believe it!" Sam turned in a circle, amazed.  "But this isn't the Accelerator Chamber..."  He frowned as he searched for the right memory.  This was the Archive room! 

There was a loud thump as something dropped behind him, and he jumped slightly.  "Jeeze, Sam, how can you work in the dark like this?"  The voice was rough and raspy.  "Ever heard of electricity?" 

"Al??"  Completely stunned, Sam's heart raced as he looked for his friend in the dark.   "Is that....you?"   Not knowing which Al is here, the hologram or the real thing, Sam's mind worked to figure it out quickly.  This was unbelievable.  Sam gripped a table to keep his knees from collapsing. 

"Last I checked it was me."  The older man sounded bored.  "You know, best man at your wedding and personal slave these days," he groused.  Sam's eyes finally adjusted to the weak light and saw him digging through a filing cabinet on the other side of the room. 

Sam's mouth dropped.  "Oh, boy!"  He whispered, feeling slightly sick. 




Project Quantum Leap 
      May 3, 1995 


"Ah..."  Sam didn't know quite what to say.  He controlled his breathing and risked letting go of the desk.  He was wobbly, but still standing, and the suspense was killing him. 

"You know, Sam, we have to put all this in order some day.  The auditors almost had a heart attack when they saw it. God, I hope the budget can withstand a flunky for this.  I sure as hell don't need it."  Al was eyeing a stuffed filing cabinet. 

Stepping around the desk, Sam touched the grumbling Al's shoulder.  He was solid!   "Al! It is you!"   The material of Al's shirt was silky and smooth and Sam couldn't believe he was actually touching him. 

Al glanced at Sam's hand on his shoulder.  He looked up at him with a frown.  "You okay, Sam?"  He asked.  "Need Beth to check you out?  You have been working too much, you know." 

 "Ah...Beth?  She's here, too?  And this is the Archive room!"  Sam's knees felt weak again, and his stomach was full of butterflies.  Knowing his office was close by he made for the door but settled on a box just in the hall instead, unable to trust his legs any longer.   Taking a few deep breaths, he tried to calm down. 

"Yes, it's the Archive room," Al repeated, his face growing concerned as he followed his friend to the hall.  "Sam, you feeling okay?  You don't look too good." 
       "I... ah ... no ... I'm just a little light headed, that's all."  What am I doing here?  When is this??  "I... I think I'll go to my office for a bit..." ... and access Ziggy privately!  Sam weakly got to his feet, and turned his back on Al as he walked away. 

Al watched Sam through squinted eyes, skeptical of Sam's answer.  "Right," he said with a hint of disbelief as he watched Sam make his way down the hall.  He made a mental note to have Beth take a look at him later, and turned back to the Archive Room. 

Sam felt like he was floating down the hall.  It was so surreal.  This was the Project, all right.  Just the way he remembered it. But he was still here; all he had to figure out was 'when' this was, and maybe the rest would follow.  His heart leaped. Was Ziggy even available? 

Sam walked to where his office was and found the door standing open.  The locking mechanisms were turned off.  When he entered the front part of his office, it was dark, but still familiar.  He stepped into the rear office and found an old desk and chair, which Sam recognized from his time at MIT.  He clicked on a desk lamp, and smiled at the furniture.  He had managed to drag those items along with him when he left MIT, feeling they were his talisman and his good luck charms up to this point.  Sam's grin grew at the memory.  Donna hated that desk. 

Suddenly Sam's feet were rooted to the floor, and he forgot to breathe.  What did Al say?  'Best man at his wedding'?  She was here?  Flashes of past events quickly went through his head; he vaguely recalled Donna in her wedding dress. He also vaguely remembered drinking heavily in a strip bar with Al, both of them in tuxedos, and no Donna.  He shook his head to clear it. 

Was she here?  Desperately, Sam looked around for any hint of his wife and found nothing.  There was only one source left. 

"Ziggy?" he said hesitatingly out loud. 

"Yes, Dr. Beckett," the smooth voice sounded…flat and devoid of personality.  Sam frowned as he regarded the ceiling for a moment, and then skirted around the desk and sat in the familiar chair, hoping it would help him remember.  When was this, exactly?   "Ah, what's the date, Ziggy?" 
      There was a pause.  "May 3, 1995. 1638 hours and 22 seconds." 

Sam was thinking furiously.  May 3, 1995.  Funding had been approved, but Sam recalled some problems with an audit. There had been a threat to cut off the money.  That's why the electrical to the minor systems, like doors and some room lighting, had been turned off. It was an effort to save some cash flow.  Construction was complete; just finishing details had to be done.  And then he realized why Ziggy sounded so flat; they had restricted the use of the 'ego' chip while the auditors had been here.  Donna had made a presentation somewhere to someone to save the budget. 

"Ziggy?  Where is Dr. Beckett?  Ah, Donna?  I mean, Mrs. Beckett?"  None of those sounded quite right, and Sam cursed his Swiss cheese memory.  His stomach was full of butterflies and he couldn't trust any of the scant memories about her in his mind.  He felt his palms growing damp as he waited nervously for a reply. 
       "Dr. Elesee-Beckett is currently in Washington, D.C., Dr. Beckett," the metallic voice replied. 
       D.C., thought Sam.  And Ziggy said Elesee-Beckett!  She was still here!  Sam could hardly breathe; he couldn't figure out where to start.  Maybe this was a chance to fix everything.  Although he couldn't figure out what he could possibly do to fix his first leap at this late point in the Project?  He quickly typed on the keyboard, trying to ascertain exactly where they were in the Project.  "Where are you Al?"  Sam hissed to himself as he typed. 

"Admiral Calavicci is in the Archive room," the voice answered smoothly. 

Sam looked up.  "No, I mean....never mind. Thanks, Ziggy."  What should he do now?  The computer was a standard style, with a minimum of raw data.   Everything was in Ziggy, and Sam hesitated to start questioning her. 
      As if it were an answer to his question, he heard a raspy voice from the other room, near the office door.  "Sam, what are you doing sitting in the dark?" 




Sam jumped at the voice.  Did he miss the Imaging Chamber door?  Which Al was this?  Sam squinted at the doorway, trying to see the details of Al's face to give him a hint.  "Ah, hi, Al. I was just, er, was trying to ... find ... you know ..." 
       "Find out why you're here?"  Al asked with a raised eyebrow as he stepped into the office.  He raised the hand link, which glimmered in the darkness like a beacon. 

Sam nearly tipped over the chair getting out of it.  "Thank God!  Al!  Where have you been?  Do you know where I am? What am I doing here?  This is great ... I think!  What does Ziggy say?  Al!  Donna's here!  She's in DC, but she's here!"  Sam suddenly frowned.  "I can't believe I'd forgotten about her!" 
      "Jeeze, Sam, slow down, will ya?  I know where you are, okay?  And I know all that other stuff, too.  So take a breath and calm down already!" 

Sam began to wring his hands and pace a short line in front of his friend.  "I'm married, Al!  This is incredible!  And you're right over there in the Archive room!"  He vaguely waved in the direction of the office door.  "What could I possibly be here to change?" 

"Well," the hologram started, "Ziggy's having a fit right now and refuses to mess with her own history.  Personally, I think that she thinks that anything involving her can't possibly need changing, so she's sorta boycotting the whole affair." 

"Boycotting?  She boycotting her work?!"  Sam came to a stop and ran his hands through his hair as if he was fending off a headache. 

"Yeah, well, you know how she is.  Hey, maybe you could change that while you're here!  Ha, ha."  Al shifted uncomfortably at the glare Sam gave him.  He shrugged his shoulders in self-defense.   "Well? You have any ideas, genius?" 

"You have no idea how hard this is, Al!"  Sam ranted.  "WHAT AM I DOING HERE?" 

Sam strode past his Observer and stuck his head out into the shadowy hallway to make sure the past-Al wasn't walking down the hall.   Seeing the coast was clear, he turned to the hologram.  "So, what am I doing here, huh? Because this is too tempting, you know.  Am I here to stop me, or what?" 
      Al's head raised quickly at his words.  "No!  Absolutely not.  No stopping yourself from leaping!" 

Sam nervously rubbed his sweaty palms together as he paced the office nervously.  His mind was whirling; so many possibilities, so many temptations all focused around one person.  "I've got to see her.  I can't believe I didn't remember her.  This is ... this is impossible!"  Sam hissed, trying to keep his voice down.   He knew the other Al wouldn't be far. 
       Al watched him pace.  "Well," he started slowly.   "She's just another reason you can't stop yourself from leaping."  'I'm walking a fine line here,' he thought nervously. 

Sam came to an abrupt halt, and peered at his future friend with a suspicious eye.  "What do you mean?  Wait.  I don't want to know.  Never mind.  So why am I here, then?" 
      "We don't know," Al told him plainly.  "There are hundreds of possibilities." 
      Sam flopped down in the dilapidated chair.  "Great. Just great."  He felt comforted by the familiar squeak when he leaned back just so. 

"Before Ziggy went on strike she came up with one possibility.  We had quite a few little accidents when we first started. She thought maybe you're here to stop them," Al commented, watching his friend lean back in the chair. 

Sam sighed.  "Okay, then. What's happening here and now?  When's the first 'little accident'?"  He actually welcomed the idea of something to occupy his thoughts until Donna returned.  If she returned in time, that is.  The little gut feeling deep inside told him he'd see her soon, but Sam had to admit that it was probably wishful thinking. 
      Al looked at the hand link.  "Well, two hours from now, a technician drops a hammer on his foot.  Breaks his big toe." 

Sam sighed.  "One broken toe fixed.  Aye, aye.  Where to?"  Sam tried to sound cheerful, but didn't move one iota from the chair.  It was simply too comforting.  It was difficult to get motivated when he was where he wanted to be. 
       "The main Control room, two hours from now.  He was tacking conduit to the ceiling," Al told him. 

Sam rocked the chair back then put his feet on the desk, moving his ankles just enough to make the comforting squeak continual.  "OK, then."  He laced his fingers behind his head and tried to relax. 
       Al winced slightly. "That noise always did bother me." 
       The corner of Sam's mouth twitched slightly.  "I know," he stated slowly, stretching. 
       "But now I miss it," Al muttered to himself, trying to focus on the handlink. 
       Then Sam stopped, a thought dawning on him.  "So, where does this chair end up, Al?  Does Donna get rid of it?  Or is it sequestered away somewhere?" 

Al hesitated.  "No, she didn't get rid of it."  He didn't say any more.  The sight of it sitting in his office still waiting for his return was a constant reminder to Beth of the emptiness she felt.  She and Al had commented on it before. 
      Sam frowned.  "But I don't remember ... oh, forget it.  What's the point, anyway?"  He stood up suddenly.  "Control room you say? Let's go."  Sam slipped out from behind the desk, suddenly tired of all the things Al wouldn't tell him.  This would never end.  He wondered if his loved ones were as tortured as he was.   It wasn't fair. 
      Al closed his eyes.  "Sam, I can't tell you anything you can't remember yourself.  I'm sorry but that's the way it is." 
      Sam moved past the hologram and out the door, striding down the hall to the Control room.   "Yeah, yeah, I know," he mumbled with a wave as he strode away.  The walk helped him vent a bit, and by the time he reached the Control room he felt a little better.  When he got there, he realized he had almost two hours to kill.  "So, what shall I do here?"  Looking around, he found a toolbox on the floor by a stack of conduit.  He recalled the auditors had been annoyed at the bare wires, even though they were temporary, and the conduit was here to cover it.  Sam could see the finished product in his head.  He picked up the hammer.  "Maybe I should just do it for him, then?" he said out loud. 
      Al raised his eyebrow. "Don't drop the hammer." 

Sam jumped.  He didn't expect Al to be right on his heels.  "Right," he said, firmly gripping the hammer and glancing at his friend. 
      "Sam, you aren't exactly Tim Allen," Al commented, looking at his friend with amusement. 

Sam picked up a length of conduit and began fitting it.  He stopped.  "Who?" 
      "Tim Allen..." Al started again.  "Tim the Toolman Taylor ... oh, never mind." 
      Sam continued with his job, saying nothing.  The physical labor felt good.  It was distracting, time consuming and he actually felt like he was getting something accomplished.  Inside, he knew it wasn't the real reason why he was here, but it was nice to be busy in a familiar place.  "Okay, what else is going to happen?"  He kept up the steady rhythm of fitting a length and tacking it to the ceiling as Al read off the list of accidents, all minor.  Eventually, a pair of workmen came into the room, surprised to find their boss getting dirty. 

"Well, a couple of people catch the flu," Al rattled off, hitting the hand link.  "One guy trips down some stairs two days from now ... and I slip on a wet floor." 

Sam had to turn his back on the workers and face the wall as he tried to keep from laughing.  Slips on a wet floor? 
      The men chatted politely and worked alongside Sam for awhile, then Sam noticed the time.  The two hours were long gone.  "Well," Sam said, putting the tools down.  "I guess it's my break time!" 

"Thanks, boss!" one man said.  "You saved us at least an hour here." 

"No problem!" Sam replied, and with a secret smile towards his Observer, left the room.  "Uh, Al?"  Sam said quietly as they walked down the hall. 
      "Yeah?"  Al replied, walking with him. 
      "So, when does Donna get back from D.C.?"  His voice was quiet, almost fearful. 
      "Later tonight," he replied, keeping his answers purposefully short.  "Why?" 
      "Oh, just wondering.  Guess I should shower and stuff.  You know."  Sam felt like he was getting ready for a first date! 
      Al looked at him and smiled slightly.  He couldn't help it.  "Maybe you should," he told him. 
      Sam's heart fluttered with nervousness. "How much time do I have?  I mean, when does she get in exactly?" 

Al looked at him with wide eyes.  "Jeeze, Sam, you're acting like a nervous teenager.  This is your wife, not the prom queen!" 
      "But, Al, what do I do?  I mean, I know what I want to do..."  He felt himself starting to blush.  "But I don't know if I can keep from telling her ... you know ... she's bound to notice something..." he exhaled sharply.  "I mean, it's been so long ... and I've missed her ... and ... you know..." 
      "Know what?  That you've been bouncing in time?" Al questioned.  "Sam, you are her husband. As long as you don't tell her that you've been leaping, then you don't have a problem."  Al smiled slightly.  "Go.  Have your fun.  You deserve it." 

Sam smiled a crooked smile in return.  "Fun. Right."  He found himself in the sparse quarters he shared with Donna.  "I'll just have to not talk, I guess.  Because if I started, I don't think I could stop.  Okay."  He took a calming breath, but it didn't help.  He glanced at Al, who was looking at the few pictures on the wall.  "Go away, will you? I don't need you hanging around to make me more nervous." 

Al chuckled a bit.  "As you wish... lover," he teased as he opened the Imaging Chamber door and gave him a wink. 
      "Just ... go... away..." Sam circled the Spartan room as the Imaging Chamber closed with a whoosh, leaving Sam alone in the room. 



Al walked out of the Imaging Chamber in 2002 with a shake of his head.  This was going to be a hard leap, he could already tell.  Sam was thinking about things he shouldn't be thinking about, such as changing history so that he doesn't leap too early.  Al knew that would probably ruin everything that Sam had accomplished in his time away, and didn't want this Project end up having nothing to show for it in the end.  And for some reason he couldn't pinpoint, it made him ill at ease to think the past could revert to what it had been pre-Leap. 
      He sighed as he tossed the link to St. John, and started for the Waiting room.  Verbena Beeks probably had her hands very full with a certain genius Visitor.  On his way down the bright hall he caught up with Donna Elesee-Beckett.  He carefully fell into step with her. 

"You heard?"  He asked softly. 

"Yes."  She responded neutrally.  "Verbena called me in the lab." 

They walked together in silence for several steps. 

"You going to the Waiting Room?" Al prodded carefully. 

Donna hesitated before responding, keeping her eyes forward.  "No."  She finally said softly, coming to a stop next to the Waiting Room door.  She turned to Al.  "I can't, Al.  I just can't."  She dropped her head to study her fidgeting fingers. "Al," she started. 

The Admiral waited several heartbeats.  "Yes?"  He finally said, prodding her gently on. 

When she looked up at him, her eyes were bright with unshed tears.  "I don't know how much longer I can do this, Al." She said quietly. 

"Do what?"  Al responded carefully. "Wait?"  Immediately, his heart went out to his friend in the past as he wondered if Beth had ever had this same conversation with anyone. 

"What's keeping me here, Al?  I mean, besides Sam.  It's been over five years!  In some states he could be declared legally dead.  Am I wasting my life?  What if he never comes back?  I'm not sure I can spend the rest of my days fiddling with a retrieval program that may never work!  I'm not moving forward with life, Al.  And I'm not sure Sam would want me to waste the time."  The words flowed from her mouth like water from a broken dam.  They had been held back a long time.  "I mean, you have a clear job here, as does St. John, Tina and Beeks.  Sammie Jo is talented and a jack of all trades.  She still has the world open to her.  What's ahead for me?  Is this all there is?" 

She locked eyes with Al in desperation, searching for validity of her existence.  Al didn't quite know how to respond, but knew he had to choose his words carefully. 

He took Donna's hands in his to calm her.  "Donna, what's keeping all of us here is loyalty and friendship and love. None of that is measurable in a physical sense.  It's only felt in your heart.  I think you know that.  The love you and Sam have for each other transcends everything else." 

Donna's gaze never faltered as she whispered her response.  "You don't think I've said that to myself all ready?  I have. And it's getting to be inadequate as an answer."  She dropped his hands and straightened her jacket.  "I need to find myself again, Al.  I've been involved in Sam's life for so long I've forgotten who I am.  And I'm not sure the answer to that is here.  I think I need to leave the Project." 

Not waiting for a response, Donna held her head up and stepped past the Waiting Room door without a glance. Surprised, Al watched her leave then felt a tap on his shoulder.  He turned around to find Julianna standing behind him with a puzzled look. 

"What was that all about?" she asked softly, nodding in Donna's direction. 

Al shook his head, instantly grateful for his daughters and Beth. In that second, he could almost understand Donna's mindset.  "I'm not sure, honey," he replied, taking her hand briefly.  "I'm not sure." 




When the sensation of falling ceased, Sam felt coldness on his buttocks.  As his vision cleared, he realized he was lying down and noticed the ceiling was metallic and sterile looking.  And he felt naked.  Had he fainted?  Immediately sitting up, he checked his manner of dress or undress, and was surprised to see himself in a snug, white jumpsuit.  It looked strangely like a Fermi suit.  He held up his arm.  It was a Fermi suit! 
      He felt his breath quicken.  "How??"  He started as he surveyed the room.  The Waiting room!  Sam gripped the edges of the bed, his head reeling.  He didn't have any memory of getting here!  He blinked, realizing that something wasn't quite right about this room. 

The sound of a door swishing open focused his attention, and he swung his legs over the edge of the bed and let them dangle.  He was completely surprised when Verbena Beeks entered the room.  She wasn't due to report here for weeks. 

"Hello," she greeted gently.  "How are you feeling?" 

Had he been sick?  "Ah, I'm good, Verbena. How are you?" Sam said as he slid to the floor. 

Verbena paused her step.  "You know my name," she said after a moment, raising a data pad and typing information into it. 

"What?  Verbena, it's me!  Sam Beckett!  Good grief, it hasn't been that long, has it?"  Suddenly Sam realized something was wrong. Very wrong. 

She looked at him with a bit of question that quickly changed to surprise.  "Sam..." She entered the newfound information into the data pad for Ziggy as she moved towards him.  It was impossible to hide her surprise.  "Sam, sweetie, do you remember what today's date is?" 

The uneasiness grew as he began piecing together his patchy memory. The last time he'd worked with Verbena was at Star Bright, and this wasn't Star Bright.  This looked like his Project, only more ... used.  Was it even finished yet?  He couldn't remember. 

 He looked again at the Fermi suit.  The last he saw this, it was locked away in the Control room, waiting for clearance to be used.  How had it gotten on his body?  "I can't remember!" he whispered, now standing in the room like an abandoned child.  "This is the Waiting room, right?"  He turned a small circle, surveying the ceiling and walls.  "I don't remember some of this equipment."  Sam backed up to the bed, and sat on the edge, his knees suddenly weak.  "This looks like I imagined... but ... I don't remember building it."  He put his fingers on his temple and frowned.  His memory had never failed him before.  It was a frightening feeling.  He turned his eyes on Verbena.  "And I don't remember you being on staff yet.  What's wrong with me?" 

Verbena approached him slowly, urging him in action to relax.  "Everything's okay, Sam.  Just relax." 

As Verbena got closer, Sam noticed small differences in her appearance; some gray in her hair, a few lines around her eyes.  She had aged a lot since he'd seen her last. 
      Very gently, she urged him to lie down.  "Everything will come back to you with time, honey. Just relax."  Verbena looked at Sam with question, wondering how he was taking all of this.  She knew he already figured out too much.  She just wondered how she was going to keep the rest from him. 
      "WHEN am I, Verbena?" Sam asked, instantly knowing that was the only possible answer. 
      Beeks hesitated with an apology in her eyes.  "I can't answer that, Sam," she said softly in a rehearsed manner.  There had been a few people who realized that they were part of a time travel experiment and she always answered in the same manner.  "Is there anything I can get for you?  Something to eat or drink?  Something to read?" 
      Sam gave her a weak grin, his confidence now shaky.  It had worked!  That thought was immediately followed with, What had worked?  He swallowed, saying out loud,  "Yeah ... how about the schematics for this place? Ha ha..." he brightened.  "Or a newspaper?  Hey, is Ziggy running?  ZIGGY?" he said to the ceiling before Verbena could stop him. She sighed in frustration as the computer responded. 
      "Yes, Dr. Beckett?" A silky and distinctive female voice came through the speakers. 
      Sam surprised expression gave way to the giddy grin of a happy man.  'What a voice!'  he thought.  'I bet Al had something to do with that.'  "Hi, Ziggy!  Your voice; it's so much more ... alive!  It sounds great!"  His mind was racing as he put the pieces together.  He couldn't keep the smile off his face.  It worked! 

"Thank you, Dr. Beckett," Ziggy replied.  "I believe you should compliment the Admiral as well." 

"I knew it," Sam laughed.  "So, I guess Quantum Leap was a success." 
      "You should know yourself, Dr. Beckett, that I cannot answer that question," Ziggy told him. 
      Sam waved at the ceiling. "Yeah, yeah, I know.  I just outlined the rules about too much information the other day."  Then a thought struck him.  "Whose idea was it to leap me into my time?  Is there a problem?" 

"Again, I cannot answer that question, Dr. Beckett." 
      Verbena put in a word quickly.  "Sam, you need to calm down and rest.  Don't worry about anything you don't have to." 
      "Worry?  I'm not worried.  Or should I be?" T he reality of how frustrated he was going to be suddenly settled on him.  "You aren't going to tell me what's going on, are you?" 
      "You know the rules, Sam," Verbena said softly.  "You just..." 
      "Damn the rules!  I wrote them!  If I'm in danger, don't you think I should know?  Isn't that the only reason I would leap here and now?  What's the problem?" 
      "Sam... please..." she pleaded gently. 
      Realizing he had to calm down and that Verbena was simply following procedure, Sam took a deep breath to try and relax.  "Look.  I leaped into my time for a reason.  I must know something.  Let's see; the furniture wasn't in yet..." Sam closed his eyes, trying to remember. 
      Verbena quickly put a word in again.  "Sam, don't.  Don't try to even think about where you are or when you are or any of that.  Just consider this a forced vacation from work. You did work very hard." 
      "I don't take vacations." 
      He knew there was something going on.  The purpose of Quantum Leap was to observe the past, and see why things happened the way they did.  So why did he leap to his own past?  There had to be a reason.  He lay down and crossed his hands on his stomach, trying to pry out some memory of where he had been, or when he had been, for that matter. Why did they want to observe him in the past? 
      Seeing that he was lying down, Verbena started for the door.  "I'll be back as soon as I can, Sam.  Try to relax, okay?" 
      "Sure."  He barely heard her leave. W hen he realized it had been quiet for a few minutes, he said, "Ziggy? You still there?" 
      "I am always here, Dr. Beckett," she answered silkily. 
      "I take it you aren't going to help me either." 
      "You programmed me not to, Dr. Beckett. That is, under these circumstances. The Leapee is not to receive any information which may alter his or her own future." 
      "Yeah, right, I thought of everything, didn't I?" 

"For the most part," Ziggy replied.  "However, you are human and humans do make mistakes." 

"Mistakes?" Sam mused out loud.  "Yeah, looks like it.  Now, doesn't it make sense that I'm here to figure out a mistake I did in the past?  Why else would I be here, Ziggy?" 
      "For a vacation," she said plainly. 
      "I don't need..." he started. 
      "I must correct you, Dr. Beckett.  All humans require an amount of time to rejuvenate.  As Dr. Beeks pointed out, you did work very hard on creating me.  And there is a 62.7% chance that you are there to allow yourself to have that required amount of time." 
      Sam mulled that one over.  Had he programmed deceit into Ziggy?  He sighed.  "But the fact that I'm here now proves everything went fine... I think..." he frowned again.  "What's wrong with my memory?" 
      "Your memory is slightly magnafluxed due to the leaping process," she told him. 
      "So this is normal." 
      "Affirmative, Dr. Beckett." 
      Sam turned that over in his mind.  He wondered what he forgot to anticipate.  Sam sat up, got off the bed and walked casually to the door and examined the locking mechanism.   He still felt exposed in the Fermi suit, and his shyness made him think twice about leaving the room.  'One step at a time,' he thought. 

"I will not allow you to leave, Dr. Beckett," Ziggy told him firmly. 
      "OK, then, how about some clothes?  This thing wasn't styled for comfort, obviously."  He made another mental note to himself about that. 
      "I can arrange for something to cover the Fermi suit if you wish but I cannot allow you to remove the suit," Ziggy told him. 
       "I would have clothes in my room, wouldn't I?  I mean, jeans or a lab coat or something.  Have Donna bring it..." then it struck him.  "Hey, is Donna here?  Can I see her?" 
       "No, Dr. Beckett, you may not see her.  Access to the Waiting room is restricted to Dr. Beeks and Admiral Calavicci." 
       "Al?  Really?  Where is he?"  This was getting more interesting every minute! 
      "The Admiral is currently in the Imaging Chamber," Ziggy told him. 
      Sam smiled brighter.  "So the Imaging Chamber works, then!  The AC obviously works, too.  You still aren't telling me the date, are you?" 
      "That is against the rules, Dr. Beckett. In fact, you already know too much as it is." 

Sam held up his palm to the door lock mechanism but didn't lay it on the pad.  Instead, his palm hovered over the pad for a second. 
      "The door will not open for you, Dr. Beckett," she told him firmly. 
      When he heard Ziggy, not really surprised, he moved his hand and rested it on the metallic wall next to the pad instead. He walked along the wall, dragging his hand on the smooth surface.  It looked better that he even remembered. It was amazing. Sam felt elated and trapped at the same time, a victim of his own invention.  After circling the room, he headed back to the bed and lay down.  It was a matter of waiting now.  He smiled at his choice of word.  The Waiting Room was aptly named. 


      The door opened several minutes later, allowing two people to enter the room.  One was easily recognizable, despite the gray that adorned the sides of his head and the wild choice of dress.  The other was a younger lady who looked as if she were in her thirties.  She had a striking resemblance to the former and her bearing was very military-like.  She wore the uniform of a Captain in the Navy and she seemed to be watching every corner of the room, and especially Sam. 
       The man went over to Sam and hugged him tightly, apparently forcing back emotions that he knew he couldn't show. "Hey, Sammy," he said with affection. 
       Sam didn't quite know what to say.  "AL!  You look older, but the same!  I just left you..." he shook his head hoping that the trick of putting aside the thought would make it come back. 
       "Yeah, I know," Al said, pulling back from the hug.  "Kick in the butt, ain't it?" 
       Sam laughed.  Same old Al!  "I'll say.  And did I forget...?"  He looked at Julianna Calavicci, trying to remember, again. "I'm sorry. Do we know each other?" 
       Jules shook her head.  "No. Not yet anyway." 

Sam looked at Al blankly.  Curiouser and curiouser! 
      Al looked at Jules and then to Sam.  "Oh, I've told you about her. That's Julianna... my daughter." 

"Okay," said Sam.  It'll come back, I'm sure, he thought.  Daughters did sound familiar.  Lots of them. 
      "Jules," Al corrected, hoping that would tweak his memory into gear a bit.  Al put his hands in his pockets and looked at Sam.  "So...." he said before hesitating.  He wondered what he could say without giving anything away. 
       "The Imaging Chamber works?  That's great!" 
       "Yeah, it works," Al said with a nod, shifting on the balls of his feet. 
       He noticed Al's uncomfortable shift.  "Thanks for telling me that much.  I gotta fix those rules.  Since when are you all such sticklers for rules?"  Sam laughed.  "Remember the no alcohol one?"  Sam chuckled, "and the champagne in the Control room area?  I think we broke that rule the same day I made it ... hey!  I'm remembering!" 
      "Of course you are.  It's not permanent, you know," Al said with a bit of a smile.  "Okay, so we don't keep all the rules but there are some we have to be firm with." 
      Sam's chuckle died away, and he looked at his toes.  "Yeah, especially when I'm involved, huh?  So what do I do?  Just sit here?" 
      "Afraid so," Al told him with sympathetic eyes.  "I know. It sucks." 
      "Big time, Al.  Big time.  How about a computer, at least, so I can keep working?  I mean, what I was doing...." 
      Al shook his head slowly.  "No computer. Sorry." He hesitated.  "I can get you a paper and pencil, though." 
      Sam let out a frustrated breath.  "Okay. Pad and paper.  I can't just sit.  And clothes.  Ziggy said she could get some."  He gave Julianna an embarrassed glance. 
      Jules smiled at his embarrassment. "Relax, Dr. Beckett.  I've seen more than you can imagine." 
      Sam felt himself blushing furiously and gave Al a wide-eyed 'help me!' look. 

 Al shrugged.  "Can't help you there, Sam.  Never could control this girl." 

 Julianna frowned slightly at him.  "Thanks a lot, Dad," she told him sarcastically before looking at Sam.  "I'll see what I can do about your attire but don't expect a tuxedo... even if you are smashing in one." 

Sam blushed even more, if that was possible.  "How about letting her take me to my quarters and I'll get my own clothes! I promise I'll come right back .. .really."  He knew it was hopeless, but the thought of just sitting here was unpleasant. 
       Al shook his head.  "Jules will bring the clothes to you, Sam.  I'll stay for a while and keep you company, if you want.  As long as you don't try to ask questions you know I can't answer." 
       Sam nodded dejectedly.  "Okay," he mumbled. 

Al nodded to Julianna, and she headed for the door.  With nothing else to do, Sam started to pace. 

"So why can't Donna see me?  I mean, she's up there on the staff, or was, anyway."  His pacing made his thoughts more ordered, but the huge holes in his memory were frightening.  "I gotta fix this memory thing," he mused as he paced and tapped his head. 
       "It's one of the rules, Sam," Al told him as Julianna left the room.  "She just ... can't."  It would be far too painful for her, he finished mentally.  "As for your memory, it'll come back to you.  I promise." 
       Sam stopped and crossed his arms over his chest and glared at his friend.  He looked so old!  Sam tried to figure out about how far forward he had leaped; he hoped it wasn't as far as he thought, but the other thought crossed his mind that if it wasn't that far ahead, stress must have aged Al.  Either thought wasn't very cheery and he blamed himself either way. "Do you still like working here, Al?" Sam asked quietly. 

 Al looked at him with surprise.  "Hey, if I didn't like it, do you think I'd be here?  You know me, Sam.  I don't let the brass tell me where to work." 
       Sam eyed his friend.  He wasn't sure if that was the truth or not.  "Kinda hard on the family, isn't it?  What's it like?  Do they live near?  Not much for kids to do in New Mexico, is there?  There wasn't much for us to do in New Mexico, if I remember correctly!" Sam laughed. 
       Al hesitated to answer before finding just the right thing to say.  "Well, it's a little tough but Beth helps keep the family together." He hoped the answer didn't give anything away. He knew that Sam was fishing for facts to figure the date. 

Sam knew Al had figured him out, but he really did want to know how things were with his friend.  "This is impossible, Al. The only thing we can do is reminisce about the 'old times' and that's just not enough.  Put your self in my shoes! This is killin' me!"  Sam started to pace again, tired of trying to keep a dead end conversation going.  "Thanks for joining me, but if we can't talk about anything, than what's the point?" Sam gave his friend a weak smile, then hopped on the bed again, resting his chin in his hands as he sat on the edge. 
       Al frowned slightly. "Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence." 
      "I have all the confidence in the world in you, Al.  That's why you're still here.  Whenever 'here' is," Sam sighed. 
      As he sat there, he mentally ran the schematics for this room through his mind, looking for a way to sneak out. 
      Al looked at him with a bit of a glare. "No, Sam," he said softly. 
      "No, what?" 
      "No, you can't try to sneak out. Ziggy won't let you." 
      "What?" Sam said distractedly as the blueprints unfolded in his mind. 
      "You can't sneak out.  I know what you're thinking, Sam Beckett.  I've been around you for too long." 
      First, he looked astonished, then sheepish. "I wasn't thinking any such thing," he said lamely, looking at his feet. 
      "Sure, you weren't," Al replied with a hint of sarcasm.  "The little Beckett curiosity is urging you to go out and check everything out, make sure that everything is as you imagined.  Not that I blame you...." He smiled a bit. "Okay ... I blame you." 
      Sam curled one corner of his mouth in a smile.  "When I built this place I was to observe the past, Al.  Is that what's going on?" Sam asked quietly. " It seems to me, after looking at the way you and Verbena are behaving, that more than just observing is going on.  I mean, why observe myself in the past?  What good would that do?  Who cares, except us?" Then something clicked in his memory, and he turned to Al.  "In fact, I don't think that I'm supposed to be able to interact with you at all. The way it was supposed to be was that I would leap back and observe.  I wasn't supposed to be able to interact!  What happened?" Sam eyes grew wide.  "And where am I now?  I mean, the 'me' in your time?  What's he doing in my time? Can he interact there, too?" 
       Al's face became somber as he exhaled.  "You know what?  Maybe you're right.  Maybe I shouldn't be in here."  It was obvious that his words were hurting him... greatly.  How he longed for this moment, for Sam to be here in person, to be able to touch and talk to him. 
      "Al, wait.  It didn't work the way it was supposed to, did it?  What happened?  Al!  You have to tell me!  What happens to me?  To the Project?" 

He couldn't keep his frustration to himself any longer.  Without even thinking, he turned around and looked squarely at Sam.  "No, it didn't work the way you thought it was supposed to.  And now I have to live with what happened." 

Shocked, Sam simply stood there, his mouth open in astonishment.  What had happened?  Did he want to know?  He sank back onto the bed, his mind whirling with the possibilities.  He must have made an error somewhere.  It had to be his fault.  Quietly, Sam returned to the bed and lay down.  He crossed his hands on his stomach and started at what he could recall as the beginning, and began to run the start of the Project through his head, step by step. 

"Thanks, Al, for the truth." Sam said softly without looking at his friend.  "Now I have some thinking to do. See you later, okay?" 
      He was determined to fix this.  Somehow. 

Al sighed, feeling like he had just pulled the rug out from Sam and left him dangling on a precipice.  "Sam... I... didn't mean it that way." He saw the look in his friend's eyes and bit his lip.  "Sam," he said after a minute, trying to get his attention.  "Sam!" he said again, this time more firmly, sitting on the bed beside him. 

"What?" Sam said, staring at the ceiling. 
      "Sam Beckett, look at me, you son of a bitch," Al said firmly.  "Look at me," he demanded firmly. 
      Sam's head turned in his direction after a few seconds.  "Just go away, will you?" he mumbled.  "Let me do what I can do to help.  Thinking is all I can think of at the moment." 
      "You can help by not doing a damn thing!" Al told him in his Admiral-on-deck voice.  "You have no idea what you are dealing with here, Sam.  You try to help out and you could wind up ruining everything!" 
      Sam grew a little more animated in his eyes, but still lay still.  "So I just exist here and do nothing.  That's what you're saying." 
      "For a couple of days, yes. Then you go on back to when you came from and continue on."  Al growled in frustration. "That's always been the problem with you.  You always saw the trees but you never saw the forest.  You don't realize that cutting down one tree can affect the whole forest." 

Sam stared at his friend for several long seconds.  His gut told him to trust him, but his thoughts had a hard time accepting that.  "Al," Sam said softly.  "There are no forests around here.  Or has that changed, too?" He smiled a small smile in defeat. 
      Al glared at him.  "That was a metaphor, Sam.  I'm talking about you wanting to fix things all the time without considering the consequences of your actions." 
     "Yes, sir." Sam mumbled.  What happened to Al's humor?  "I was just trying to tell you that I see your point, okay?  Calm down, all ready.  I get it.  So I won't even... think... God this is going to be boring.  I hate vacations." 

Al gave him a hint of a smile.  "And I wish I had more of them."  He rubbed his face.   "God, I can't remember the last time I made love to Beth." 

Sam started to drum his chest with his thumbs, bored all ready.  "A piano?  What can that possibly hurt?  Unless of course it's some sort of Jetsons' piano that hovers or something."  He rolled his eyes innocently in Al's direction. 

"I'll see what I can conjure up on that."  He chuckled at Sam's comment.  "Hovers. Don't you wish." 

"Ah, Al, you know I can't just sit here!  And where are my clothes?” 

"What?  You don't like the Fermi suit?  Well, that's your fault, you know.  You're the one who designed it."  He looked up at the ceiling.  "Ziggy, where's Jules?" 

"Captain Calavicci is twelve meters from you.  She has just arrived on this level." 

"Thank you." His voice sounded strained. 'I really do need a vacation.' 

 Sam's face sprung a goofy grin at the sound of Ziggy's voice, obviously pleased.  "And make sure she doesn't have anything resembling a prison jumpsuit with numbers and stripes, okay?"  Sam added. 

"Really, Dr. Beckett," Ziggy replied, nonplussed. 

"Just making sure.  My rules, you know, are keeping me here.  Remind me of that, will you, Ziggy?  When I get back?" 
       Julianna entered the room with a bit of a smile.  "Well, it's not much but I was given some pretty strict orders about the attire that is allowed." 
       "See?" Sam said to the ceiling. 
       "Here," Jules said, handing the clothes to Sam.  Then she tugged on Al's arm gently.  "We'll just leave you alone for a while, all right?  Get some rest."  Without saying a word, but with an order in her actions, she pulled Al out of the Waiting Room.
       Sam was almost glad to be alone.  Almost.  And he knew he wasn't really alone, anyway.  This was an observation room, after all.  "Ziggy?  Close your eyes, okay?" He said in jest as he started to pull on the clothes.  It was probably going to be the most action he'd have for awhile, he thought with a sigh. 




E-mail A. J. Burfield and Katherine Freymuth