Episode 826

Saving Quiet Ryan

by: A. J. Burfield

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The quantum phasing had just begun to clear when Sam Beckett felt a thump on his head and a burning pain. There was still an electrical buzz in his ears when he heard the word, "Noogies!!" and felt his forehead in a sticky grip.

"HEY!" he yelped automatically, jerking his head forward, and feeling something drop on his foot. He'd managed to break away from the grip, however, and now heard raucous giggles behind him. Trying to turn, he felt the restricting strap across his hips and realized he was in a car.

Catching his breath, he glanced around and saw that he was in the second row of seats of an ancient station wagon behind a dark haired woman driver with an infant seat next to her. Sam couldn't see what it contained, but next to him was a boy in a car seat, miraculously asleep amidst the squealing, who looked to be about two years old. Twisting around he saw two identical looking boys bouncing up and down and giggling uncontrollably that looked to be about five years old. One of them was responsible for the noogie attack, Sam concluded with a glare that renewed the giggling.

He looked down to see what had hit his foot and picked up a weighty grey square that said 'GAMEBOY' across the top. The screen showed the outline of a spaceship racing across what looked like desert terrain; it was hard to tell with the plain, two color graphics. 'RYAN' was inked in permanent marker across the bottom part of the frame. Sam looked at the name, then turned to the window next to him. The darkness outside made his reflection easy to see in the glass: A boy of about eight years old looked back at him.

"Oh, boy. I must be Ryan!" Sam whispered to the face.




Even after coming back from his peaceful trip with Beth, Al Calavicci kept a respectful distance from head programmer Edward St. John. He admired the skill, dedication and enthusiasm he had in his work here at Project Quantum Leap, but Al never felt too comfortable being physically close to this employee. Of course, he had felt the same way about Gooshie and his halitosis, and found himself missing the old programmer greatly. At least he knew why he couldn't stand being physically close to Gooshie; St. John was another matter. There was a vibe there that gave the Admiral the heebie-jeebies, and he felt himself taking a half a step back as St. John was energetically explaining why the Imaging Chamber had to be offline for a little while.

"Fine," Al answered when St. John took yet another eager step closer and began to count the reasons why on his fingers. "Fine! You've convinced me. I assume Ziggy concurs, with you two being joined at the hip like you are?" The parallel hybrid computer had taken to the new programmer like a purring kitten.

"Why, yes, of course." A perplexed look crossed the Englishman's face. "I wouldn't have even come to you if we hadn't discussed it beforehand!"  He didn't say it, but Al read the expression: ‘How could you even think I'd ask something like this without her consent?? Are you crazy?’

"Fine then. Do it. The sooner the better." St. John nodded happily and started down the hall, talking out loud. ‘In any other place in the world we'd all look like a bunch of lunatics, talking to the ceiling like that,’ thought Al as he popped the well-chewed cigar in his mouth and turned to go, searching for a match in his pocket. He gave the "No Smoking" symbol posted right next to his head a sideways glance.  ‘Screw it,’ he thought. ‘I’ve been trying to escape to light this for an hour!’

He found a solitary match in an inner pocket, and began to walk as he struck it to a flame. Just then, 6-year old Stephen Beckett flew around the corner, practically mowing Al over. Donna was in hot pursuit. "Oh! Sorry!" she apologized, skidding to a stop and untangling Stephen from the Admiral's legs. She immediately noticed the cigar and scowled at the Admiral.

"Ew!" Stephen piped up. "Stinky!" He held his nose with one hand and waved the air with the other. Donna tried to hide her giggle by ducking her head.

"All right all ready!" Al grumped, pinching the barely lit cigar with his fingers, putting it out. "I know when I'm beat." He popped the unlit cigar in is mouth with a sparkle in his eye as he regarded the boy. "Where are you off to in such a rush?" he asked around the stub, squatting down to attain eye-to-eye contact. Stephen wrinkled his nose at the offending object projecting from the Admiral's mouth, but couldn't help but smile at his friend.

"I guess St. John is removing some panels to the Imaging Chamber," Donna explained.

"Yeah! And I can look inside Ziggy!" the boy piped up, obviously excited.

"Don't you see inside Ziggy all the time?" Al inquired, amazed at the things that caught this boy's interest. He knew he was looking at an incarnation of Sam Beckett, and wondered how Thelma and John Beckett managed to keep a young Sam busy on a farm without a Ziggy.

The boy rolled his eyes in exasperation. "But this is a part I've never seen!"

"You mean it doesn't look the same behind all those access panels everywhere?" Al said curiously. ‘It all looks the same to me!’‘ he thought.

The boy looked at his mother unbelievingly, then back at Al and took on a patient tone. "No, it doesn't! This is where the hybridized bio chips are interfaced with the neural connectors!" he replied with wide eyes. "You didn't know that?"

"Of course I knew that! Everyone knows that!" Al stood up again, tousling the boy's hair. To Donna's grinning face he said, "I guess you'd better not miss the show, huh?"

"No, I'd never hear the end of it if we did," she replied, again taking the boy's hand. "But I told you about running in the halls, didn't I?" she directed at her precocious son. Stephen began pulling on her arm. She gave Al a tired look. "He doesn't nap enough," she said, allowing herself to be pulled away.

" 'Bye Uncle Al!" he piped up, tugging on Donna's hand.

" 'Bye Stephen!" Al said, chuckling. He watched them disappear around the corner with a reminiscent smile, and turned to continue on. Grabbing the useless stub from his mouth, he dropped it in his pocket and pulled out a new, cellophane wrapped cigar from another pocket. He unwrapped it as he walked to the elevator, appreciating the aroma.

It had been two days since Sam's last leap, and every one was managing to get some work done. These breaks were welcome, but few and far between. Al had managed to catch up on his sleep while on his trip, but a pile of reports waited for him in his office.  However, he had decided to escape to the surface for a cigar break and some fresh air first. He managed to snag some matches from one of the numerous guards enroute, and finally stepped outside.

The late afternoon sun was comfortably warm and the angle of the rays made the surrounding mountains ruddy red and ruggedly beautiful. He stood there admiring them and relaxing, and eventually realized that he'd actually managed to smoke almost the entire cigar uninterrupted. He sighed contentedly. ‘It's funny what small things can make you happy in a place like this,’ he thought. The unpredictability of Sam's leaping didn't lend itself to a by-the-clock-schedule; it was more by the seat of your pants.

Finally, he snuffed out the tiny remnants of the cigar and stepped back in the Project with a nod at the guards. He began to think about a romantic dinner with Beth involving red wine and pasta, planning the courses in his head that would lead up to a spectacular dessert, when the familiar voice brought him back to reality.

"Dr. Beckett has leaped, Admiral," Ziggy stated matter-of-factly.

"I'm on my way," Al said automatically.

"To where?" Ziggy asked.

"The Imaging … oh. Is St. John done with it yet?" he remembered, working to get his mind off track from his wife, red wine and romance.


Al waited for more, then glared at the ceiling. "Well? How long, then?"

"How long then, what?" Ziggy asked, miffed. "Until the replacements are in place, the testing finished, or the Imaging Chamber is functional again?"

"The last one!" Al snapped, his mind now back in Project Administrator mode thanks to the annoying, egocentric parallel hybrid computer.

Ziggy sniffed. "One hour, 47 minutes, 25 seconds," she snapped back. "Without any interruptions and if Edward continues at the same pace."

‘Edward??’ he wondered about the hybrid computer.  "All right! Calm down, already. I've been later than that in contacting Sam. He'll have to get along without me for the time being. Tell Beeks I'm on my way to the Waiting Room, then."

"Righty - O!" the silky voice chirped in ann abrupt personality reversal.

" 'Righty - O'?" Al repeated distastefully. "She's around that Englishman to much," he mumbled as he headed to the elevators.

When he got to the Waiting Room Al wasn't surprised that Verbena Beeks was already in the observation room making notes of her initial impressions of the new Visitor. She looked up at Al, smiled, and indicated a chair next to her with her head. He sat down and they both observed the subject in the stark room below them through the one-way glass. All Al saw was a lump in the sheet on the bed.

"I take it the Visitor is under the sheet?" he said.

"Yup. I got here within two minutes of being notified and this is what I saw. Not much motion in there. At least there's no screaming or hysterics."

"Yet," Al added. "No talking at all?"

"Nope. Want to see the leap in vid? Might as well. This isn't very exciting." She punched a few buttons on a panel next to her and a small video screen next to the desk flickered to life.

Al watched as the form of his best friend appeared on the bed in a sitting position, legs dangling over the edge. The figure froze, eyes huge, hands in front of him as if he'd been handling something when he had been pulled from his life. Immediately, Al saw the resemblance between Sam and Stephen, expression and all.

"He's a kid," Al said at once.

Beeks flicked her eyes at him then back at the screen with a frown. "You can tell that in two seconds?"

"Look at that body language and face. That's Stephen."

The figure's head turned slowly examining the room with huge eyes. They saw the figure of Sam bite his lip, then pull his legs up and crawl under the sheet, pulling it over his head completely. The screen form now matched perfectly the form currently in the room.

"Well. I'll have to remember to call you next time I'm stumped!" Beeks said with a smile, stopping the vid.

"Well, my girls used to do that when they were scared at night. Hide under the sheets." Al explained. There was still no motion in the room.

"For how long?" Beeks inquired.

"Until they fell asleep or worked up enough courage to make a dash to our room," Al said fondly. "Things live under kids' beds, you know. Makes sleeping in your room pretty scary."

"Well, if that is a child in Sam's body, I'd say he's got a lot to be scared about." She jotted some notes down. "Monsters, huh? Suppose I should get in there before he falls asleep, then, Doc?" Verbena teased, standing. "Come on, then. I'd better get some tips from you so I don't lose my job!"

Al stood, and they moved towards the door. "No one could replace you, 'Bena."

"Is that a threat?" Her eyes sparkled as she spoke. She knew how Al really felt about shrinks and never failed to remind him that she knew. He chuckled gruffly in response.

They tried to be quiet when they entered the room, or at least keep down any loud or sudden noises. They stopped about three feet away from the bed, close enough to see the sheet move with breathing. The rate of breathing increased when they got closer.

"Hello?" Verbena said gently. "I know you can hear me. My name's Dr. Beeks. What's yours?"

There was no answer from under the sheet. Finally, a tiny voice with an adult timbre said, "Ryan."

"Well, Ryan, can you come out so we can see you?" Al said gently. Mentally he prepared himself to see his friend's body with some one else's soul and mannerisms. It still creeped him out, but he was adjusting a lot quicker these days.

The blanket didn't move for what seemed like forever, but in reality was only a several seconds.

"Ryan? Please?" Beeks asked with a tinge of authority.

The sheet moved, and the form below sat up. The sheet slipped from his head, but he held it tightly to his chest as he sat cross-legged on the bed, eyes cast downward.

"I'm Dr. Beeks, and this is Al. Nice to see you."

Ryan's eyes glanced upward, barely visible through his lashes, and his head stayed down; his hands worried the edge of the sheet.

"Are you scared?" Verbena asked a bit more softly.

At first there was no movement, then the head nodded quickly. The gray streak in Sam Beckett's hair fell down over his eyes, making the adult figure look almost as young as the Visitor seemed to be. "I'm not supposed to talk to strangers," he said so quietly they barely heard him.

Al and Verbena looked at each other. This wasn't going to be easy. And they needed this boy to find Sam Beckett.



 August 24, 1991

Outside Issaquah, Washington  

 I know I've been Quantum Leaping for a long time, yet I can recall little of the many situations I leaped into. I know, though, that I have been here before: A young kid in the family car and the target of sibling teasing. Well, maybe it wasn't during a leap after all. The brotherly teasing was all too familiar, and from what I could recall, not much different from my own past experience. There was one difference, though: I was the eldest for once!

The bouncing boys in the backseat tried to continue the noogie attacks, even with the loss of surprise on their side. Sam felt like an octopus was assaulting him with the waving arms snaking over the back of the seat looking for a target. Finally annoyed to the limit, Sam grabbed two left hands and gently applied a karate twist resulting in immobilizing pain. Simultaneous shrieks emitted from behind him, ending in teary begs of "LEGGO!!"

Sam loosened the grip and twisted around. "Keep your hands to yourself!" he hissed threateningly, and let go.

The boys rubbed their wrists. "I'm gonna tell mom!" one of them whined.

Sam glanced ahead of him and realized that the woman driver ….mom? .. didn't really seem to care what was going on in the back seat. "Go right ahead. I don't care," he said as he turned around, amazed at how juvenile he sounded yet satisfied at the result of his action.

"When we get to grampa's house we're gonna show you," a voice pouted from behind.

Sam ignored them as they whispered conspiratorially behind him. At least they were leaving him alone. He settled back to gather what information he had: Four brothers and an unknown infant sibling heading to grampa's house with mom. Where was dad? Was there a dad in the picture? He tried to see landmarks outside the window in the darkness without a whole lot of success. It appeared to be a rural area, with houses fairly spread out and an occasional car passing them in the opposite direction on a two-lane road. He tried to see some details of the woman's face, but she was intent on the drive. She hadn't said a word, and Sam thought that odd. What adult could handle that screeching in the back seat? He glanced at the sleeping boy next to him and was again amazed that the toddler hadn't budged.

He leaned a bit forward and heard the low murmur of the car radio. It wasn't music; it was a talk station of some sort but he couldn't make out the words due to the high-toned voices in the back. ‘Well, all I can do is wait, I guess,’ Sam sighed as he settled back in the seat. He looked more closely at the Gameboy but realized that he couldn't concentrate on it; there was an undercurrent here he couldn't pin down making him feel edgy.

Something about this leap wasn't right. He could feel it in his gut.

They turned onto a street that had a cluster of a half-dozen houses on either side, every house except one warmly lit from the inside. Sam pressed his nose against the car window, not surprised that they were turning into the dark house's driveway. They drove around to the small garage in the back, which opened with an opener in the car, and parked inside.

"We're here! We're here!" the two hellions in the back shrieked, bouncing up and down.

"I dibs the TV first!" one of them squawked.

"I gotta get the bathroom first!" the other shrieked as both of them pounded on the back of Sam's seat. "Open the door, Ryan!"

The seat shaking finally woke the boy in the car seat and he sleepily rubbed his eyes and began to cry.

"All right all ready! Cool your jets!" Sam snapped as the popped open the door. The two boys in the back bolted out the door in a tangle of arms and legs and Sam covered his head with his arms and simply stayed out of the way.

Still there were no words from the woman driver. She sat at the wheel, gripping it tightly, as she put the car in park and turned off the engine. Sam, however, was getting a headache from the crying, and finally noticed a tiny whimpering noise from the front infant seat. Realizing how full this woman's hands were, Sam began to work the release button of the car seat next to him in an effort to help.

"I'll get that," the woman said in a tone so calm, Sam wondered if she was drugged. She obviously wasn't deaf. "Open the house. And be quiet so we don't disturb the neighbors." Handing Sam the keys, he gladly left the crying duet building to a crescendo behind. Just outside the garage, he hesitated from guilt and glanced back. He could see the woman working both children loose from the car seats in a mechanical fashion. Again, Sam was struck by a feeling of oddness, but his attention was pulled away when he heard the twins pounding at the back door of the dark house.

"Open up! Open up!" they chanted gleefully as they banged the door with their fists in rhythm with their voices.

Sam bolted for the door. "Shut up!" he hissed as he worked the bolt, somewhat taken back by his choice of words. The boys didn't seem to notice and raced inside ahead of Sam, who carefully stepped into the darkness. He could hear the boys' voices as they felt around in the dark.

"Where's the lights, Christopher?"

"I dunno. They don't work!"

There was more banging and a shriek followed by a pounding feet and evil laughter. One of the boys ploughed into Sam, who had stopped just inside the door.

"He scared me! That's not funny, Robin!" Christopher hugged Sam tightly as a giggling Robin came up to them.

"Baby!" he teased in a mean voice.

"No, I'm not!"

"Yes, you are!"

"No, I'm not!" Christopher insisted as he began to cry.

Sam patted his back and held the other off with his free hand. "Well, if you're twins, then if he's a baby, so are you!" he snapped automatically. ‘Where did that logic come from?!’ passed through his mind. He didn't have time to think about it any more when he heard Christopher's voice, muffled because his face was pressed against Sam's legs.

"Ryan? Do you think grampa's ghost really lives here?" he asked in a quiet tone.

Sam was completely taken aback by that comment. "Where'd you get that idea?" he questioned, surprised.

"From you!" Robin replied in an indignant voice. "And you said not to ask mom or he'd get us!"

"Who'd get you?"

"The ghost! You said!"

The totally confused scientist glanced back and saw the woman trudging towards the house with an armload of kids. "Ah, well, I don't think…" he started.

"Get in the house, all of you," the woman said firmly when she was close enough. "There's no electricity so don't touch the lamps. Get in and close the door. I don't want to bother the neighbors." They stepped inside and the twins huddled close to Sam. The woman set the toddler down, and carried the baby into the dark room. "Stay there while I light a candle."

They heard a rustling sound in the darkness, then the hiss of a match being struck. Sam saw the flickering profile of the woman as she touched the match to a fat candle in the living room area, the baby on her hip whimpering quietly. "I'll make you something to eat," she stated.

"A campout inside?" Christopher said happily.

"Can we make a fire?" Robin chirped.

"No. The only fire is the gas stove." The woman moved to the kitchen, and Sam finally got a chance to see her when she lit another candle with a slightly shaky hand in the kitchen. She had dark bags under her eyes, and a slack, expressionless face. Her hair was straight and dark, pulled back into a thoughtless ponytail, and her cheeks appeared gaunt. As she opened a cabinet and pulled down a box of macaroni and cheese, he noticed that her motions seemed mechanical. "Ryan, go get the baby seat and my purse from the car."

"OK," he replied quietly, shoving the twins into the living room. "Stay there," he ordered. One of them, Robin, he thought, stuck his tongue out at him. Sam shook his head as he stepped outside and looked at the small patch of stars in the cloudy sky. "Where the heck are you, Al?" he said in frustration, a feeling of foreboding starting to rise again.

As he walked to the detached garage, Sam took a moment to appreciate the quiet of the night and tried to figure out where he was and when he was. It wasn't too cold, so he figured it wasn't winter. There was dry grass all over, so he figured summer or fall. When he entered the garage, he looked at the car plates: Washington, registered for the year 1991. He nodded in satisfaction. ‘Close enough. Now, who is the woman?”

Entering the car from the driver's side, he unfastened the infant seat and dragged it out to the floor. He then slid across the seat to reach the purse on the floor of the passenger side. It was heavy; Sam dumped it on the seat and realized that it was actually a diaper bag. Since there was no other purse looking item around, he figured the bag doubled as a purse, and began to dig around inside to confirm that thought.

Sure enough, he found a zipper pocket with a worn leather wallet inside, and quickly pulled it out. The Washington State Driver's License bore the picture of a fuller-faced and smiling version of the woman inside whose name was Cady Everett Livingston, resident of the city of Issaquah, Washington. Sam looked at the smiling face and compared it to the woman in the house; there was a sad difference, but it was the same woman.

He put the wallet back and began to shoulder the bag when a sudden urge to check the bag further crossed his mind. He had a suspicion growing he had to check out.

There was another zipper pocket on the outside of the bag that appeared to be rather lumpy. When he opened it, Sam wasn't really surprised to find several prescription bottles inside. One by one, he pulled them out, each a different version of some kind of antidepressant. One smaller bottle really shook Sam up; it was an anti psychotic, and recently prescribed. In addition, the very bottom of the pocket revealed several bottles of child strength cough and decongestant syrups, as well as a prescription bottle of codeine laced cough syrup.

"This woman is a walking drug store," Sam whispered to himself, saddened that his suspicion had been right. He had suspected she was depressed in some way, but this was a bit more than he'd expected. She bore watching, and he wondered at the wisdom of five children being alone with her. And what was the story on this homeowner? Was it her father's house? Was she meeting someone here? And was this Issaquah? As he reloaded the bag, Sam separated out some of the older pill containers and stuffed them in the glove box. Then he shouldered the bag, exited the car and grabbed the infant seat. Suddenly he felt like he needed to be inside, and once again he cursed Al for his lateness.



 Project Quantum Leap

Stallion's Gate, New Mexico  

 It had been nearly an hour since the Visitor had said his last words about not talking to strangers, and he didn't appear to be any closer to relaxing. In fact, he was getting more nervous, nearly to the point of tears when Al and Verbena had decided to back off.

They had tried to coax any information from him as a team, and then separately, and still had gotten nowhere. Ryan had worried the edge of the sheet until a small hole had appeared, and then he began stuck his finger through the hole and began twisting the bedraggled cloth. Verbena was considering medication, but didn't like the idea of holding Ryan down to administer it. He hadn't allowed either one of them to touch him and Verbena felt they were all at a veritable Mexican stand off.

Verbena and Al were in the observation room watching Ryan, still behind his sheet shield, eye some books they had brought in for him, but made no move to touch.

"That is one suspicious kid," Al mused. "All we need is a date and a name. It's not like were asking for the moon."

Verbena stood with her arms crossed over her chest, thinking. "There are some major trust issues here. I wonder how he functions in school? Or maybe he's home schooled."

"I wonder if he has any friends?" Al wondered, recalling the childhood friends of his daughters and how they interacted. "He must talk to someone…" Then an idea struck him. "Verbena, what do you think of bringing Stephen down here with some of his toys? A little play therapy?"

Verbena's eyebrows went up in interest. "That's an idea, but we don't know if he's violent. It is risky."

"And it's riskier not being able to find Sam. We have to make some allowances here, 'Bena. This isn't your standard medical facility, and the ultimate goal is Sam's safety. The Imaging Chamber will be online soon, and I need to get information to Sam."

"I know that, Admiral, but that boy's well being is my responsibility, too, and it's one I don't take lightly." She raised her hand in a stop motion to halt Al's tirade before it started. "I need to talk to Donna first. It is worth a try, but it would have to be her call, not mine. We're not only talking about Ryan; think of Stephen's position. That is his father body, no matter who is inside it." She ran a hand through her short hair. "There's more angles here than any psychiatrist should ever have to deal with," she sighed. "I can't ever say my job is boring!"

Al nodded, and hit the wrist link. "Ziggy? Have Dr. Elesee call me in Dr. Beeks' office."

Within seconds, the phone rang and Al discussed the proposition with Donna. It took another twenty minutes for the observation room door to slide open and admit Donna and Stephen, who was carrying a canvas bag of toys, which he dropped immediately to press his nose to the glass. Verbena knelt down and went through the bag with Donna. Donna divided her attention between the bag and her son, and bit her lip in an action Al recognized as worry. Al pulled a chair up next to the boy.

"Hey, Stephen. What's up, buddy? You get Ziggy all put together?"

The boy spared Al a glance and a frown. "Mr. St. John put Ziggy together. I only got to watch. He's not done, though." He looked back into the Waiting Room.

"Yeah, I figured as much. Are you mad you were taken away?"

"Nah." This time his eyes were bright with excitement when he faced Al. "I got to see the bio chips! They were neat!"

"Neat, huh? They don't look like other chips?" Al recognized the flicker of excitement in the boy's eyes. It was Sam all over again.

Stephen shook his head dramatically and looked back at the form in the Waiting Room. "They don't look anything alike. Is that really where the bio chip parts came from?" He pointed at the figure of Sam. "Him?"

Suddenly, Al realized just how weird this whole situation was. Stephen had been allowed in the observation room before, but had never interacted with a Visitor. He'd been told who the man was in there, but that the elements that made him his dad Sam weren't there; in his own little brain, Stephen had put together his own idea of what was going on, and seemed to accept it. This would be a first, allowing him to interact. Verbena was right. They had to be careful.

"Well, yeah, they came from your dad, all right." Al said with conviction. "But right now, a boy near your age is using your dad's body, and he's really scared. He's not used to this like you are."

Verbena moved next to him and squatted down. "His name is Ryan, Stephen, and he's really scared of us for some reason. All we want to know is his last name. Think you can help us and make him more comfortable? We think that sharing your toys would help a lot."

Stephen looked so serious that Al had to put his hand over his own mouth to cover his smile.

"OK. But he can't leave the room, can he?"

"No, he can't." Verbena said, taking his hand. "That's too bad, huh? You can't show him all your model planes, but I see you brought one along." Verbena lead him to the entry door as Donna handed him the tote and followed behind. Al decided to stay in the observation room to keep the boy from feeling outnumbered. For some reason he couldn't pinpoint, he felt as if time was imperative and running short even though it had only been a little over an hour since Sam leaped. He stopped his urge to get an update in the Imaging Chamber; he didn't want to interrupt the process for a second. When he focused back on the little procession leaving the room, something dawned on him.

When Stephen and Verbena stepped out, Al said softly, "He didn't even ask where his dad was, did he?"

Donna hesitated at the door and turned briefly to the Admiral with a sad little smile. "He used to ask all the time," she replied quietly, and then stepped inside the room, a bright smile now pasted on her face.   

 When Sam entered the house again, the baby was crying, the toddler whining and the twins were noisily playing hide and seek in the dark living room. He smelled cooking pasta and moved into the kitchen to put down his load. The woman, Cady, was stirring the pasta with the crying baby on her hip, oblivious to the racket and intent on the pasta. Sam saw that she'd closed all the curtains in the lower floor. He wondered what was upstairs.

"Um, here's the seat," Sam said loudly. When she looked at him blankly, he pointed to the infant seat, and she paused. After a second she turned off the heat, put the baby in the seat, and pulled a bottle from the diaper bag.

"Go get your brothers for dinner," she said as she went to the sink with the bag to prepare a bottle.  Sam left to get the boys. When he got back, the baby was finally quiet as it sucked greedily on a bottle. Cady watched the child drink for a few long seconds, then went back to the pasta, stirring in the packaged cheese.

A little unsure of what he should do as the other boys scrambled to wash their hands, and still uneasy about the woman, Sam stood by the curtained kitchen window still trying to get a feeling about what all this was about. How should he bring up the subject of the boys' father, if there was one? How long ago had grampa, her father, he deduced, died? Were they here to check up on the house or something? A noise outside made him turn and automatically pull back the curtain. He saw a figure across the street hauling a trashcan to the corner, banging it noisily on the sidewalk. As the figure straightened up, Sam felt someone slap his hand away and pull the curtain closed again.

"Sit down. Don't play with the curtains," Cady ordered and Sam moved automatically.

Sam sat on a chair by the infant, still trying to figure out if it was a boy or a girl, while keeping an eye on the woman. The other boys thundered to the table and climbed into the chairs. The toddler couldn't see over the edge of the table, but the twins were all set and pounding their spoons on the tabletop. Cady put two hastily assembled bowls of macaroni and cheese in front of them and the pounding stopped, but the toddler began to cry.

"I'll hold him," Sam offered, moving to the boy and slipping in under him. The boy stopped crying only when he had his own bowl, and began a very sloppy attempt to feed himself.

The only indication that Cady heard them was the few seconds she watched them eat. Not wanting her to be angry with him, Sam ate along with the rest of them, not really tasting the pasty dish.

"Drink!" Christopher said with a full mouth.

"I'll get it," his mother said quietly, almost sadly, as she turned. Sam watched her place cups on the counter, but was then was distracted by the toddler swinging his spoon wildly. “This kid has to have a name. Where's Al?! ,’ he thought again as he dodged a wide swing.

Cady carefully placed a glass in front of each of them, and helped the toddler drink from one of them. "There you go," she said gently, stroking his hair. "Drink up." That was the most emotional thing Sam had seen her do yet, and he tried to piece all this together. Something didn't make sense, and he knew he was missing a vital link to this puzzle.

He swallowed the contents of the cup, grateful to have something to wash down the sticky cheese concoction. Cady then sat at the table with them, and took the toddler in her lap to help him finish the food. The baby, Sam saw, was sleeping now that it had a full stomach.

"Mommy, is grampa really here?" One twin said out of the blue. The other twin hit his arm. "Ow!"

"Ryan said not to ask that!"

Cady seemed unphased. "Yes, I'm sure he sees all of us," she said mechanically, sounding sad to Sam. "He sees everything."

"Is he buried in the backyard?" the first twin asked again, getting another whack from his brother.

"No. He's buried just a little ways from here. But his soul is everywhere."

Her tone gave Sam the shivers.  


 Lester Lancaster straightened up slowly. Taking the trashcans to the curb wasn't his favorite chore, but he accepted that is was his duty and attended to it religiously. In fact, being outside and alone this time of night was rather relaxing. As he glanced to the sky to see if there were any stars, a motion caught his attention in the corner of his eye.

He glanced over at the empty Everett house and frowned. Was that a flash of light in the kitchen window? Was the curtain moving, or was it imagination? He watched a few minutes longer, but didn't notice anything more. If it weren't threatening to rain, he would go over for a closer look. Instead, he decided to keep an eye out from inside his own living room for a little while.

Lester knew that there were burglars in this area that specialized in hitting the empty, furnished vacation homes. He knew that when Charles Everett had died last May, the house had stayed intact. He had warned Charles' daughter and her husband about the burglars, but also knew the responsibility of having five kids and now this extra house might be too much for them. He offered to keep and eye on it for a while, until they got their feet under them, and the husband had gratefully accepted. Cady, Charles' daughter, had still been in shock about the death and hadn't said anything. Since then, the husband, Vincent, had checked in regularly by phone. They hadn't been back, as far as he knew.

Settling in the living room by the picture window, Lester enjoyed a pipe and watched the approaching storm gather in the sky.



 Project Quantum Leap

Stallion's Gate, New Mexico  

 When Stephen entered the Imaging Chamber, his father's eyes followed him curiously. Donna sat inconspicuously in a chair by the door as Verbena did the introductions and put the tote on the metal table next to the bed.

Stephen studied the figured carefully before speaking. "Hi. Are you cold in that?" He indicated the Fermi suit with a pointing finger.

Ryan looked down at himself, and picked at the material of a sleeve with a perplexed expression. "It's not mine," he replied quietly. "And it feels funny."

"Want a sweatshirt, Ryan?" Verbena asked. "How rude of me to not ask before!"

"Yes, please," he answered, allowing his eyes to wander to the tote. He saw a model plane sticking out, but didn't dare move to touch it.

Stephen's face lit up. "That's my Navy A-4 fighter jet!" he pulled it out of the bag and brought it close to Ryan. "Uncle Al used to fly one just like it. Isn't it neat?"

Ryan finally dropped the sheet as he took the model in his hands to look at it more carefully.

“'Bingo'?" he asked, squinting at the tiny writing on the fuselage.

"Yeah! That was Uncle Al's name in the war. I guess all the pilots had weird names."

Verbena, waiting for the sweatshirt she requested to be delivered, was standing by Donna, and they both stifled laughs at the comment, both seeing the indignant expression on Al face in their mind's eye.

"Like in Top Gun," Ryan said quietly. "Neat!"

"I've got lots more, but they're in my room. You can't go there." Stephen left the model with Ryan and went back to the tote, pulling out some small cars and smaller planes.

"Why not?" Ryan asked, reaching for a small car with a tall antenna.

Stephen dug in the bag a little more. " 'cuz you can't leave this room until my dad comes back. Here's the remote. Want me to show you?"

Donna met Verbena's eyes at the explanation Stephen had given. "Well, that was pretty simple." Donna commented. They returned to watching the pair. "Ryan seemed to accept that pretty well!"

"We adults do seem to complicate things sometimes," Verbena admitted.

Ryan had taken the remote and turned it on, revving the motor of the small car as Stephen held it and they both laughed. Stephen put the car down and it raced in mad circles by his feet, so he jumped on the bed with Ryan, who was now frowning in concentration with his swinging legs dangling over the edge of the bed.

"My mom won't let me have one of these," Ryan said after a few minutes of racing the car.

"My mom won't let me have lots of stuff," Stephen griped in agreement.

Donna was drawn to the pair sitting there. Physically father and son, it would make a sweet picture, but the reality of the situation was a bit more weird.

The sweatshirt arrived, and Verbena opened the door to take it from the Marine guard. Ryan's mouth fell open in awe and surprise when he saw the uniform. "Who's that?" he asked Stephen, who gave the guard a half second, unimpressed glance.

"Oh, that's just the guard. They're all over the place."

Ryan's mouth was still hanging open when the door slid shut and Verbena approached him with the sweatshirt. He took it from her with a look of respect, and slipped it on over his head. He read the words printed on the front, upside down. "U.S. Marnie Crops."

"Marine Corps," Steven corrected automatically, taking apart another car that didn't seem to be working.

"Marines? Like soldiers?"

"Uh huh."

"Is this an Army base?"

"Uh uh. It's my dad's office, but he's gone a lot."

"Wow!" Ryan put the remote down and looked around the room more carefully as Stephen tinkered with the mechanics of his truck. "My dad is gone a lot, too. He's in Los Angeles right now."

Verbena could see that curiosity had replaced fear, but decided to wait just a bit longer to seek the information they needed. Ryan needed to begin to trust first, but they had to be careful on the subject of Stephen's dad. Apparently, Ryan saw himself physically as Ryan, not Sam Beckett. She was glad the tote was covering the reflective surface of the metal table.

"What am I doing here?" Ryan asked Stephen. "Is this a hospital? Does my mom know where I am?"

Stephen opened his mouth to say something, but Donna stood suddenly. "Stephen, maybe Dr. Beeks should answer that one?" Lord knows what Stephen's response would be!

Verbena began speaking immediately. "Ah, I can let her know you're here, but I need to know your last name first, Ryan, or maybe a phone number? She's probably worried."

Ryan looked a little surprised, then looked at Stephen, and back at Beeks. "Oh. Um, my name's Ryan Livingston and my phone number is .. um… I can't remember." His forehead furrowed in thought. "My mom's name is Cady, and my dad's is Vincent."

"What city do you live in? That would help."


Verbena looked at Donna, then back at Ryan. "Washington?" She asked with a smile.

Ryan nodded.  

Al, who had been watching the entire exchange, immediately barked at Ziggy. "I need that information ASAP, Zig.  And tell St. John that I'm on my way to the Imaging Chamber."

"The Imaging Chamber is still offline," Ziggy purred automatically. Before Al could demand anymore, she added. "I have information on a Cady and Vincent Livingston of Issaquah, Washington from an August 25th, 1991 newspaper."

Al was already racing down the hall to the Control Room. Suddenly, he had a sick feeling in his stomach; for Ziggy to come up with information that quickly and from a newspaper was not a good sign.  "Tell me," he ordered, slightly breathless, and an urge to hurry pushing him onward.

"It seems that Cady Everett Livingston kills all five of her own children the night of August 24th, 1991. She drowned them."

Al's stomach fell to his toes and he felt cold fingers of fear racing through his body as he thundered into the Control Room.

"Why would a mother drown her own children?" Ziggy queried out loud.

"Check psychiatric records, Ziggy! I don't have time for this! St. John!"

"Yes, sir! Down here!"

Al followed the voice to floor level a short distance from the Imaging Chamber ramp.

"I need to contact Sam now!"

St. John's eyes grew wide as he looked up at Al from the floor. "I need at least ten more minutes! And I haven't tested the new chips!"

"Sam doesn't have time! Install the chips and power up!"

"Yes, sir!" He buried his head back in the open access panel without another word.

Meanwhile, Al listened to Ziggy's research results. Cady Livingston was a woman who had battled mild depression most of her adult life. She suffered severe post partum depression with the last two childbirths, not seeming to recover from the last birth in early 1991. When her father died that same year, she spiraled down so far she began suffering hallucinations. Although her friends had worried about her, none of them thought she would do what she did. In fact, the days before the drownings, she had seemed a little better.

As he listened Al tapped his toe on the floor, nervously waiting for the Imaging Chamber to come online. ‘No wonder I felt a sense of urgency,’ Al thought to himself. "Come on, St. John. Time's running out!"  

 When they had finished eating Cady Livingston cleared the table and ordered the children upstairs. She slung the diaper bag over her shoulder, picked up the infant carrier and followed them up, the tail of the parade. First Sam, then the twins, who were pushing and poking each other, them the toddler whose name Sam still didn't know, and was crawling up the steps, an finally Cady with the baby.

There was a hallway at the top of the steps with doors on both sides. "Ryan, you're in here." She pushed open a door to a small room with bare bed and a small dresser. "Wait here for me," she ordered calmly. Sam watched the rest of them move down the hall. A sudden wave of dizziness made him lean on the door frame.

"Christopher, Robin, the next room. Get in and wait for me." In a quiet way out completely out of character from what Sam had seen, they complied. Sam saw Robin yawn, his own head suddenly feeling thick.

Sam frowned, and swayed as he stood watching Cady take the toddler and baby in another room. ‘I'm so tired,’ Sam thought as he backed into his room. He stumbled to the bed and lay down, barely able to keep his eyes open. He ran the events of the leap through his whirling mind to try and figure out what it was he was supposed to do here, but found the desire to sleep too strong. Something deep inside him became alarmed; he struggled to clear his head of the fog.

He saw Cady's face leaning over him, and heard her voice close to his ear. "Come on Ryan. You need to be cleansed."

‘Cleansed? That doesn't sound right,’ Sam thought groggily as Ryan's mother helped him sit up, then stand. She had her arm around his shoulders as she guided him down the hall towards the sound of running water. She turned him into a bathroom where the tub faucet was fully turned on. ‘Oh. A bath,’ thought Sam.   "I doan need a .. bath," he slurred, an inner alarm ringing even louder in his gut.

He tried to grab the sink, but Cady's strong grip pulled him away and she pulled him towards the tub. Sam jerked his arm back, and he fell backwards, knocking the diaper bag from the sink edge. A clanking noise caught his attention, and he looked down and saw and empty bottle spinning on the floor. Sam frowned at it; he'd seen it in the car. It was the codeine cough syrup bottle. It had been full when he saw it earlier.

Sam's stomach lurched when he realized what that meant. She had drugged her own children!

Cady pulled him to his feet, wrapped her arms around him, and carried him to the tub.

"It's the only way! Daddy says it's the only way! I failed as a mother, Ryan! You are all bad children, and need to be cleansed before you see him," she babbled as she forced Sam into the tub. Water splashed everywhere, and she put her full weight on his back, using her knee to push Sam's legs into the tub, too.

Now he was fully immersed, and the world was oddly quiet. He could hear his own heartbeat in his ears, and his brain felt like cotton. The slippery surface of the tub made it impossible to find any kind of purchase, and both of Cady's arms were wrapped around him, trapping his arms against his stomach. Sam fought the urge to gasp in air; he forced his eyes open, and began to fight back, pulling some inner strength from somewhere deep inside.

Sam's sudden burst of energy took Cady by surprise, and Sam felt her grip slip. He rolled violently to one side and her own head went under. Sam felt her release him to haul herself out, and he struggled to the surface, gasping for air.

Cady was already on her feet and waiting for him. As the image of her son faced her, still gasping for air, she drove her shoulder into his chest an pushed him back into the tub, this time facing up. Her hands were on his shoulders as she held him down, and Sam could see her mouth working as she spoke words he couldn't hear. Her legs trapped his legs against the edge of the tub, the lower parts dangling outside the tub.

Sam's fuzzy brain made his motions disjointed. He tried to push her off, but his arms felt like limp ropes. Finally, when he didn’t think he could hold his breath any longer, he jerked to the side, loosening her grip just enough for Sam to reposition himself and grab the front of her blouse. He used her to pull himself up, taking in a large amount of water as he gasped for breath.

Then he ducked his head and threw his chest against her, knocking her backwards to the floor. Sam saw her sit down hard, her head snapping back against the door jamb. He took the opportunity to crawl out of the tub and flop to the floor, where he immediately retched water.

His head was buzzing so loudly that he didn't hear the sound of the Imaging Chamber door.

"Run, Sam! Come on, you gotta get out of here!" Al's voice demanded, barely managing to break through the fog in the scientists' mind.

Sam rolled from his back to his side, coughing up more water. The woman was sitting on the floor, propped against the wall, stunned.

"Come on, Sam, get up! You had a little kid dose of that drug, so you should be able to fight it! Get up! She's going to kill you!"

Now on his hands and knees, the room spinning, he retched another puddle of clear fluid and struggled to his feet. "Al?" He choked.

"Yeah, Sam, it's me. And you gotta hurry. Move it!"

The order got Sam's feet moving on their own accord to the bathroom door just as the down woman began to moan and struggle to her feet. Still reeling, Sam bounced against the door jamb and stumbled into the hall, using the wall to support him.

"This way, Sam! Get out of here and get help!" Al was waving at him form the end of the hall, and pointing down the stairs.

Slowly, Sam made his way that direction on spaghetti legs. He was almost there when he felt a grip on the back of his shirt.

"She's behind you, Sam!" Al yelped, too late.

Sam fell to his hands and knees, dragging Ryan's mother down with him. He rolled, trying to get in a position to push her off, but his hands seemed disjointed and uncooperative. Finally, he got to his knees and pushed her away, and twisted to grab the stair rail.


The warning came too late. He felt her arms wrap around him, and he lurched forward. The two of them rolled down the stairs in a writhing heap and hit the bottom floor with a sickening thump.

"Sam! Sam!" Al popped in next to them and kneeled down. "Are you all right? Come on! You gotta get out of here! SAM!" After an eternity, Sam's arm twitched. "Come on! Get up!" The scientist had ended up mostly on top of the pile, and began a weak struggle to sit.

Unsuccessful, he instead scooted backwards on the floor in a seated position until his back hit the wall. He was breathing heavily, eyes glazed. One hand was rubbing the back of his head, which had rapped the floor in the fall.

"Sam? You hear me buddy?" Al squatted down next to his friend.

"Mom?" Sam said quietly.

"Sa….Mom? I'm not your mom! It's me, Al!" He waved his hands in front of his friend's unfocused eyes. "Sam?" Al realized that Sam wasn't looking at him, but through him and at the woman on the floor.

"Mom? MOM?" The boy's voice was rising in panic.

"Oh, no. Sam! Stay with me, buddy! Sam! Your brain is magnafluxed with Ryan's!"

The image of the boy, panicked, was crawling to his mother's form, crying, unmoved by the presence of the Observer. He shook Cady's shoulder. "Mom? Wake up, Mom!"

"Oh, boy! This can't be happening…" Al pounded on the handlink, and another realization struck him. If Ryan was here, then Sam was…"ST. JOHN! Get Stephen and Donna out of the Waiting Room right now!"  


Stephen had finally fixed the second remote car and screwed in the last panel. "OK!" he chirped happily. "I'll race ya now!"

He hopped to the floor to position the two cars side by side, leaving Ryan sitting on the bed. He didn't notice the odd look pass over the Visitor's face, or that he'd dropped the controller to brace himself with both arms.

Verbena and Donna noticed immediately, and were on their feet instantly. Stephen, concentrating on the cars, was rattling off the rules of the race and didn't notice the sudden alertness of his mother or Dr. Beeks. When Ryan didn't answer, he turned and looked at him and found an astonished pair hazel eyes staring at him.

"What?" he said, suddenly self-conscious. By the time he got to his feet, Donna was by his side, reaching for his hand. The aura of Sam glanced up and her.

"Donna?" The Visitor whispered, appearing to be in shock.

"Stephen, we need to go now," she said, sounding eerily calm. He didn't move at first, unable to take his eyes from the Visitor's face, and Donna finally managed to get him moving.

"Mom?" Stephen said dreamily, walking sideways to keep his eyes on the aura of his father. He saw the Visitor's eyes tear away from his mother, and back at him, and saw that his eyes looked watery. "Dad?" he said clearly, meeting eyes with the man now in Ryan's place.

The look was finally broken when the door slid shut between them. As his mother maneuvered him quickly down the hall he opened his mouth to ask what happened, but one glance at his mother's face compelled him to stay quiet.

Tears were running down her cheeks.



 "SAM! You have to hear me, Sam!" The Observer got right in the boy's face in an effort to bring the physicist back. Ryan was shaking his mother, who was showing signs of reviving. The boy had no idea that this woman was going to kill him. Seeing he wasn't getting through, Al abruptly changed tactics. "Open the door! Come on, Ryan, open the front door and go for help!"  Al could hear a low rumbling of thunder outside and rain pelting the front of the house, but knew the only chance for the boy was for him to get out.

Ryan paused and pressed on of his hands against his temple with a frown. "Help?" he said, sounding confused.

"Yes, Ryan, help! You need to go for help! Come on, stand up!"

The boy got shakily to his feet and turned towards the front door, moving like he was in a dream.

"That's right! Come on, undo the bolt, there! Hurry!"

The old door was swollen from dampness, and the bolt was difficult to work. Ryan seemed to gain some strength, and with a final mighty twist, got the bolt open. He tried the door, and realized the door knob also had a lock.

"You can do it, Ryan, undo the lock. And the chain! There's a chain, too."

Ryan undid the doorknob lock and immediately fumbled with the chain. Finally, it dropped free. He stepped back and pulled the door open, unaware that his mother was fully awake and getting to her feet behind him.

"Run, Ryan, run!" Al screamed.

The boy looked up at the rain and hesitated. It was all Cady needed; she pulled him back by his shirt and slammed the door shut, and wrapped her arms around him. "Come with me," she said calmly.

"NO! Let him go! SAM! WE NEED YOU!"


Lester had just finished his pipe, and the sound of the late summer rain had made him sleepy. He tapped the bowl clean, put it on the table, and stood to go to bed. He glanced outside one last time, satisfied that not even a burglar would be out in this weather, when a motion on the front porch of the Everett house startled him. The front door was open! He blinked, frowned and leaned closer to his window, and saw a faint form in the doorway. Immediately, the door shut again. "I knew it!" he whispered to himself as he grabbed the nearby phone. "I'll stop those sons of bitches!" and he dialed 911.



Sam's strength may have surprised the woman once, but she wasn't going to let that happen a second time. Her grip was like iron, and Ryan wriggled uncomfortably. "Mom! Leggo!" he said as she carried him up the stairs.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry," she repeated. Al wasn't sure whom she was talking to. "I tried to do what you told me! I'm weak, and bad and have raised bad children. I'll do it this time, really! I won't fail again!"

The boy's struggles stopped, and he seemed resigned to accept what ever his mother had in mind. He had no idea she meant to kill him.

"Sam, you have to come back. Come on, Sam, or this boy is going to die. Sam!"

The pair had reached the bathroom, and Cady's footing became unsteady on the wet floor. She stopped to brace her feet, then continued on in a chopped stride.  She propelled the boy in front of her, her hands on his shoulders, steering him.

"You need to be cleansed, Ryan," she said calmly.

"Cleansed my eye! Come on Sam!" Al walked backwards in the boy’s path and pounding the hand link as he yelled.  He saw the boy's face change from calm acceptance to confusion. "Sam! Come on! Fight back!"  He knew the fine thread of Sam’s mind was still there; he needed to strengthen it considerably, somehow, fast.

Cady moved to put Ryan in the tub again, where he stopped when his knees bumped the edge.  Al saw him look down at the water in confusion, then suddenly the boy’s eyes widen in realization.  His head snapped up and looked right in the eyes of the hologram that was bisected by the tub.  “Al??” he asked in surprise, just as his mother pushed him under once again.

The boy's demeanor changed abruptly into that of a wildcat. Water flew everywhere, and Al had trouble seeing who was where. He waved uselessly at the spray.  “Keep it up, Sam.  You have to get away!”  When the water finally cleared, Sam and the woman were rolling on the floor.

"You need to be cleansed, Ryan!" she said mechanically, eerily dry-eyed as she cried. "It's the only way to save you!"

"Don't listen, Sam!"

Finally, Sam tisted around and used his legs to push her back.  She sailed across the small bathroom and struck the wall, her head cracking the sink edge with a sickening sound.

"Leave him alone, you bitch!" Al screamed at the woman.

"Al," Sam gasped as he pulled himself from the deadly water, trying to gather his feet under him.  "Al! Leave her alone."  He broke into a coughing fit, water spraying everywhere as his knees gave away and he collapsed to the floor.  Only his grip on the slippery tub edge kept him from going all the way to the floor.

"She tried to kill you, Sam! And she's gonna kill the little ones if you don't stop her!"

The physicist pulled him self to his feet, and wobbled to the doorway, keeping an eye on the downed woman.  She was weakly beginning to cry, and didn’t appear to be trying to get up.  Breathing heavily, Sam moved out in the hall and towards the bedroom door of the youngest child.  He braced himself against the doorway as if keeping guard, his head dropping down in sadness and exhaustion; the codeine was hard to shake.

He was just beginning to think about immobilizing her somehow when he heard the sound of sirens in the distance.  "No, Al," he said tiredly.  “They’ll stop her.”  The sound of sirens grew louder, and he could hear the sound of tires on gravel just outside the house.  He knew it was over, and they would be safe now.

Al appeared next to his friend, tapping at the link while throwing the woman nervous looks over his shoulder.  "She's nuts, Sam, and you saved her kids. In the original history, she drowned them all. You saved them! And her!  She gets some pretty intense counseling from her on out, and seems to be get along pretty well.  The kids do fine, too.  The County intervenes and keeps pretty close track of them all.”

There was loud pounding and shouts of “Police!  Open the door!’ at the front door of the house as Sam felt a familiar chill.  Shivering from the small rivulets of water running down his neck, he looked at Al with a puzzled look as a thought, a feeling, passed through his mind.  He opened his mouth and spoke just before the comforting blue haze enveloped him.  “Al, do I have a son?”

Sam Beckett leaped before his astonished friend could reply.





          Julianna Contessa Calavicci sighed with contentment as the morning sun broke through the curtains of her bedroom. It was a beautiful day outside - she could tell from the lack of aching in her back - and she knew that it was going to be a long day ahead of her at work. She didn't realize just how long it was going to be for her.

           Rolling over from her right side to her left, she gently touched her rounding pregnant belly with one hand as she reached out to hug her lover with her other. She was met with empty space.

            Thomas however had gotten up early and had gone into the living room to sit and ponder about what happened during the night.  There was something that he had to make a decision about.  He just couldn’t believe that his soon-to-be wife had been dreaming about another man... calling his name out, and telling him just how much she loved him.  It was something that threw him totally out of balance.  It was as if she didn’t give a damn about him, and it wasn’t that it had just happened once, but every night for the last two weeks.  Something had to be done.  He had come to a decision and he knew that it was going to hurt Julianna.

            He had already taken most of his clothes from the bedroom and threw them into the car.  All he lacked was a handful of hang-up clothes and he’d be done.  Everything else... didn’t matter.  He just couldn’t stay where he wasn’t truly wanted.  He knew that he couldn’t stand up to the good Dr. Beckett.   No matter what happened, he wasn’t the man that Julianna loved.  He sighed and headed back toward the bedroom and stopped in the doorway when he saw Julianna turn over.  Licking his lips, he just looked at her for a long moment.  Finally, he asked a bit sarcastically, “Sleep well?”                  

            Julianna frowned at his tone and watched at he came into the room and went to the closet to take out his clothes.  Sitting up, she gaped for a moment as it dawned on her what he was actually doing.  “Tom?  What... what are you doing?”

            Thomas licked his lips.  “I’m doing what needs to be done, Julianna.  Let’s just say that I know when I’m not wanted.”  He saw her confused expression.  “Julianna, I know about him, okay?  Just... give it up.  I know when I’m bested.  He’s obviously done that.  He’s beaten me out of your thoughts, that’s for damn sure.”

            Quickly Julianna got out of the bed and approached him, her frown growing. "Just what the hell are you talking about, Thomas?" she demanded of him. "Him who?" He turned toward the door and started walking away but she stopped him. "No, I want an answer. I want to know why you are throwing away our future before we even have one."

            "Him who?" Thomas asked her back.  "Honestly Julianna, I don't think that we even had a future.  Maybe at one point... possibly before you ever came to the Project... *if* we had met before then."  He saw her confusion and he rolled his eyes and licked his lips once more.  “I’m talking about Sam Beckett, Julianna.  I'm no match against him.  I know that.  I... I can't stay here loving you... wanting to be with you... when subconsciously you want him.  And you can't say that you don't.  *If* you didn't, you wouldn't be having dreams about him... and telling *him* how much you love him.  I can't lay beside you -- with you... and have you dream of him every night... and knowing deep down that you want him... not  me.  So, I'm going.  I'll ... I'll do my best to send you whatever you need for the baby, but... I can't do this Julianna.  I... I just can't."  He pushed past her and headed toward the door once again.

            Hurriedly, Julianna followed him toward the door. She wasn’t about to let this man get away from her that easily. "Tom, please don't do this," she pleaded with him. "I love you, Tom. You're just going to leave me and your child like this? Speaking of which, what about the baby? What about working at the project?" Quickly, she put herself between him and the front door. "Please, don't leave. Give us a chance."

            Thomas listened to her questions, her pleading, and for half a minute his mind almost... almost let him stay.  “No,” he told her plainly.  “No.  I won’t stay here when you subconsciously want another man.  I... I don’t want to leave my child ... or you... but I’m not going to do this Jules.  I... I can’t.  And you honestly can’t stand there and tell me that you don’t love Sam Beckett, now, can you?”  When she sputtered, Thomas leaned forward and kissed her forehead.  “Good bye, Bright Eyes.”  He looked down then back up into her ocean blue eyes that were now brimming with tears.  Without another word, he walked down the stairs of their apartment building and out to his car.  It was only out there, that he let the emotions that were kicking at him emerge.  Getting inside the car, he started it, glanced back up at the apartment one last time and drove away from the woman he loved.


 E-mail A. J. Burfield