Episode 920

The View From Here

by: A. J. Burfield and Peta Stanford

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The leap effect dissolved depositing Sam in another timeline, in yet another body. As quickly as it always did the light that crackled and swirled around him faded. As his vision cleared and feeling returned Sam felt the hairs on his arms and the back of his neck prickle as perspiration broke out on his skin from the hot, dry air surrounding him. A weight in his hands registered and Sam looked down to see that he held a camera. A multi-colored strap was dangling from the sides of the camera and it was this that Sam’s eyes focused on; for some reason it vividly brought to mind a vest that Al had worn once, the same neon combination of black, blue, purple and pink that was a hallmark of the hologram’s wardrobe.

Sam draped the strap around his neck, lifted his head and squinted against the glaring sun beating down upon him. The heat shimmered the air and rippled the distant horizon. Shielding his eyes Sam looked around and saw that he was standing on a rocky outcropping several feet wide and a camera bag was sitting on the ground a short distance behind him. The view from his position was spectacular. The desert vista was a palette of stunning colors from oxidizing irons in the rock strata to the distant barren hills that looked golden, almost metallic, in the afternoon sun. There were no sounds, no animals, reptiles, or birds, not even a fly to disturb the absolute silence. The heat was so intense he could virtually feel it sizzle the air.

 He looked down past his boots to the dusty soil where he stood; his eyes were drawn to the very edge of the shelf only inches past the toes of his boots and then the immense drop to the desert floor beyond it.

An icy feeling gathered at the base of his spine, slowly rising until it slammed into his brain and galvanized him into action. Panic seized him in a death grip and squeezed the breath out of him, turning his knees to Jell-O. His heart began to slam inside his chest, his mouth felt like it was filled with cotton and his palms felt slick with sweat.  Sam's feel felt like concrete as he lifted them one at a time to move backward away from the precipice. His limbs moved sluggishly as he fought to overcome the sheer terror that gripped him.

As he closed his eyes against the vertigo that was suddenly a real danger, he stepped awkwardly on a small stone. His foot flew out from underneath him and abruptly pitched him to the ground. Sam landed hard on his rear end and his eyes flew open, breathing heavily, he scuttled backward to put as much distance between himself and the edge as possible

Sam’s breath came in short, sharp gasps and he began to shiver even though the sun still beat relentlessly down upon him. His retreat finally reached a conclusion as a cliff wall stopped him short. He pressed himself up against the rock face feeling the sharpness dig into his back as panic coursed through him. Sam pulled his knees up against his body and pressed the heels of his hands hard against his eyes to shut out the sight in front of him. Rocking back and forth, whispered words finally broke past his lips.

“Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.”





June 16, 1994

Death Valley, California


An immeasurable amount of time drifted past before Sam felt ready to face this reality. He shakily removed his hands from his face and pointedly kept his eyes fixed on the ground to his side.

Acrophobia. The word blazed unbidden into his mind, bringing with it a memory of another time, another place where the same fear had held him similarly immobilized. The memory dissipated as quickly as it had formed leaving Sam wondering whether it had been from a leap or something from his earlier life.

Even with his eyes cast firmly down to the solid ground beneath him, Sam’s peripheral vision still picked up the infinitesimal flash of light that occurred a second before the sound of the Imaging Chamber door was heard.

“Hey Sam.” Admiral Al Calavicci stepped out through the door and settled his eyes on the leaper. “Are you okay?” He looked in puzzlement at his friend.

Without raising his eyes, Sam clasped his hands tightly together and took a deep breath. “I’m afraid of heights.”

          “Yeah I know, been that way since you were a kid.” Al raised his hand and scratched absently at his chin. “Meant I always got the window seat whenever we had to fly to D.C.” He grinned.

          “What am I doing here?” Sam asked, his voice none too steady.

          “Well it looks to me like you’re sittin’ on your butt in the dirt.” Al took several steps backwards, tipping his head slightly to one side and appraising his friend. “You want to tell me why that is?”

“I just did! I told you I’m afraid of heights.”

“Yeah I heard you but what has that got to do with…”

          “Turn around Al.” Sam commanded without looking up.

          The hologram did as he was told realizing just where he was standing. He looked down to see that he was apparently standing in mid-air with nothing below him for several hundred feet.

“Wow, what a view!” He exclaimed turning back to face Sam. “Hey, this reminds me of when I took the girls bungee jumping a couple of years back. You shoulda been there, Sam. Vicky didn’t stop screaming until she was standing on ol’ terra firma, then she couldn’t wait to get back up there and do it again.”

“Al, do me a favor.” Sam pleaded in a low voice.

“Sure kid, what is it?”

“I know you are standing in the Imaging Chamber with solid rock under your feet, but just for my peace of mind, would you please try to give me the impression that you aren’t suspended in mid-air? I’m getting the shakes just thinking about what you are doing.”

Somewhat belatedly, Al realized what sort of an effect his position was having on his partner and he moved quickly back to Sam’s side. “Sorry, pal. I keep forgetting what it looks like to you.”

Sam sighed in relief as Al crouched down next to him. “Why am I here?” The leaper choked.

Al pulled the hand link from his coat pocket and ran his thumb over the keys. “You’re here to fix something.”

“I’m always fixing something! What particular something do I have to fix this time?”

“Dunno. Haven’t got enough data yet.”

“All right, then, where am I?”

Al consulted the read out. “Death Valley.”

“I don’t like the way that name rolls so easily off your tongue.” Sam winced.

“Sorry. I didn’t name the place.”

          “Well, one thing is for sure, I have to get down from here.” Sam finally raised his eyes from the ground and sought out Al’s face.

“I agree with you there. You’re gettin’ sun burnt. Wonder what the hell this guy is doin’ out here without any protection from this heat?” Al shook his head. He took a look at Sam and climbed to his feet. “Okay first things first. I want you to stand up but don’t take your eyes off me, all right?”

Sam nodded, took a bracing breath and slowly pushed himself to a standing position while keeping his back firmly pressed against the rock face. His hands splayed out over the surface behind him, Sam kept his eyes glued to his partner's and tried to ignore his shaking knees.

Al sympathized deeply with the leaper as he saw how much effort he was expending in keeping himself as calm as possible. Checking the hand link for details, he instructed Sam to pick up the camera bag and to make his way around to his left.

“Now this is the hard part. I’m gonna have to get Ziggy to center me further along this track, Sam. When I do, I don’t want you to move a muscle, you understand me?”

Sam nodded wordlessly and pressed harder against the rocks behind him. He listened carefully to what Al said, trying as hard as he could to keep his mind off what he knew was only a short distance away from him. 

Eventually after what felt like an eternity, Sam clambered over some medium sized rocks and came out on to the desert floor. Ahead of him was an older style pickup truck. Sam stumbled over to the vehicle and slid shakily to the ground in the meager shade that the vehicle provided.

Al waited for a few minutes until Sam got his breathing under control and relaxed before speaking up. “Hey, you need to get up.”

Sam raised exhausted eyes to his friend. “What for? I just need to rest for a bit.”

“I know you’re tired, Sam, but you’ve got to get some liquid into you. Last thing you need to do is pass out from sunstroke. This sun will leach the moisture right out of your bones.”

Wearily, Sam climbed to his feet and opened the side door. Hunting around, he discovered a cooler with a half full bottle of water inside. Sinking back to the ground, he wiped his streaming face and took a long drink from the bottle. It was not cold but at least it was wet and it relieved the parched sensation that had accompanied him for most of the afternoon.

“Feelin’ better?” Al inquired after a while.

Sam nodded. “Much better. I think, though, that I could do without another leap in like that one. Why is it do you think that I always end up in situations like this?”

“Beats hell outta me, kid.” Al shrugged his shoulders.

Sam finished off the water and looked up at Al. “I take it, seeing as this is Death Valley, that we are in California. Right?”

          “Yep, that’s the only Death Valley that I know of.”


“1994, June 16th to be exact.”

“Who am I?”

“Todd Palmer, and you’re twenty-eight.”

“Hmm, but you don’t know what I am supposed to do.”

“Not yet.”

“Where do I live?”

“San Bernardino.”


“Don’t think so.”


“Um, possibly.”

“What, what do you mean 'possibly'?” Sam asked.

“I didn’t have much time to feel this guy out before Ziggy insisted I rescue you. For all I know, you could have a little black book with a long list of lovelies filed according to the size of their…”


“I.Q.” Al finished with a twinkle in his eye.

“I hope not.” Sam favored the hologram with a wry look. “I have enough trouble when there is one woman involved, let alone several.”

“That’s ‘cos you’ve got a heart of gold, kid.” Al tapped at the hand link looking for information. “Why don’t you get yourself in the truck and start headin’ home, and I’ll go back and grill this Todd guy.”

“But I don’t know where I…he lives.”

“That’s okay, I don’t either, but I will.” Al grinned at Sam’s incredulous look. “Listen, it’s gonna take you at least two, two and half hours to get to San Bernardino. I’ll be back before then with so much info, I’ll be able to tell you what he had for lunch when he went to kindergarten.”

“As long as you can tell me what I need to know, when I need to know it, I’ll be happy.” Sam replied tiredly.

“Yeah, me too.”

Sam climbed into the driver’s seat, which was uncomfortably hot. He found the steering wheel to be just as painful. “Which way, Al?” The landscape that surrounded him was all the same; rocks littered here and there, short scrubby bushes, sandy dirt and dust.

“Straight ahead about a mile and a half and you’ll see the highway. Make a right and keep going. Follow the signs south. I’ll catch up with you when I’m done back at the Project.”

Sam nodded and put the car into gear, the flash of light emitted by the Imaging Chamber door opening caught in the rear view mirror and then was gone.

          He found the highway easily enough. As he drove, he let his mind wander. What did he have to change this time? The alterations he had wrought previously had ranged from the insignificant getting a cat out of a tree, to life changing, like saving someone from being sentenced to death. Sam’s mind ticked over with numerous possibilities, but he realized that with no information it was basically an exercise in pointlessness.



The sun was getting lower in the sky the further Sam drove. Unfortunately, it did not seem to affect the temperature. The road in front of him seemed to waver as the heat bounced off the tar. The reflection caused Sam to squint against the brightness and it was only at the last moment he noticed the vehicle with its hood up parked on the shoulder of the road. He had not passed another vehicle since leaving Al, and his conscience would not let him drive past this one without finding out if the driver needed assistance.

He approached the white sedan warily. Half remembered stories of people being accosted on deserted roads, robbed and left to die, ran through his mind.

Sam need not have worried; the driver’s side door opened and a pair of long, tanned legs tipped with ridiculously high heels emerged from within. The rest of the person followed and Sam found himself looking at a woman of medium height, with long auburn hair framing an impish face. She was wearing a white dress with thin shoulder straps. It was so short that Sam hoped she did not need to bend down to pick anything up.

          “Can I give you a hand?” He stuttered when he realized his mouth was gaping.

          Bright red glossy lips broke into a smile and a high-pitched breathless voice answered him. “I would be, like, so grateful if you would! I don’t know a thing about cars except how to drive them.”

“Okay, I’ll have a look. You should stay in the car out of this sun.”

          “Oh don’t worry about me, honey, I’m used to this.” She giggled.          Sam stared at her for a long moment. He had the strangest feeling that he knew this woman. “Are you okay?” She asked after his study of her face had stretched on for several seconds.

          Her voice jerked Sam back to reality. “Huh? Oh yeah, I'm fine. Sorry. I’ll have a look and see what’s going on.”




Tina took a step back and lowered her sunglasses, peering over the top of them at the delectable image in front of her. Bent over under the hood of her car was the best looking example of the male species that she had set eyes on in a good, long time. Broad shoulders tapering to a narrow waist drawing her eye like a flashing arrow to the piece de resistance: faded blue denim outlining the finest set of curves she had seen on anyone. Ever. The way those jeans hugged him! The slightest movement as he reached for something further back was well defined under the tight material. She sighed. She could stay here and revel in that view all day.

 Oh, she so much wanted to touch, needed to touch! But he was a stranger to her; a fact that had not stopped her before, she considered briefly. She could tell by the way he looked at her when he had pulled over to the side of the road earlier that he was definitely the shy type.

 Tina clenched her hands together at the overpowering urge to walk up behind him and run her fingers over that firm…stop that! She chastised herself silently. Be sensible! What do you think would happen if you went up and planted your hands on that oh, so gorgeous…asset.

          Tina clicked her tongue in frustration and turned away from the temptation in front of her. Act your age, she thought, be reasonable. Do you want to scare him off by coming over like you have spent the last few years in a convent? All you need to do is ask him for a phone number, you know, so you can thank him again for his help when you get back to town. You never know. She mused. One thing leads to another. Ask him out for a drink and let nature take its course. Yes, that’s it! Tina tapped her highly polished nails together and turned around just as the man under the hood of her car jumped suddenly, hitting his head on the hood. He cursed softly.

Tina ran over to him as he extracted himself from his cramped position. “Hey, are you all right? What happened?”

“I’m fine thanks, something just startled me.” He glared at a spot over her left shoulder.

“Okay, then.” Tina glanced down at the engine. “What’s wrong with this thing anyway? Can you, like, get it going?”

“No, I’m afraid not. You’ve got a burst radiator hose. You’re going to need a tow truck.”

          Tina stamped a foot in annoyance. “Oh great, that just figures! Now what am I gonna do?”

          Sam looked from the woman standing in front of him to the image of his best friend behind her. His forehead was furrowed in thought and he cocked his head at the back of the woman. The Observer raised the handlink and spoke automatically, his mind obviously elsewhere.

          “Offer her a lift Sam. She could very well be the reason that you’re here. Besides you can’t leave a beautiful woman standing on the side of the road.” Al alternated between frowning at the hand link an admiring the woman's backside.

          “Um, I can give you a ride if you like. I’m going as far as San Bernardino.”

          “Would you? I was on my way to San Diego, but I can get another rental car to, like, go the rest of the way.”

          “Sure, no problem. I’ll clear the front seat off. Um, why don't you get your things out of the car?”

“Gee, this is so kind of you. I’ve never met a Good Samaritan before, and I don’t even know your name.” Tina gushed.

          “It’s Todd.” Sam answered.

“Well, Todd, it’s very nice to meet you.” She held out a perfectly manicured hand and winked at him.

Sam stared at her for a few seconds, dropped his eyes to her hand and then to his own covered in grease. He wiped them nervously on his jeans and gave her an embarrassed smile. “Pleased to meet you.” He stammered. “I’ll just go and…um, get, uh…tidy the car.”

Tina smiled in acknowledgement knowing full well that most men had this reaction to her sooner or later. She started to walk by him, but hesitated a moment as she whispered into his ear. "I'm Tina." She continued to her car, grinning like the Cheshire cat.

          “Al, she winked at me.” Sam hissed as he pulled things off the seat and shoved them back out of the way.

“So?” The hologram was unconcerned and busy pushing keys on the hand link. “Wink back. I'm sure she doesn't bite. Or maybe she does."

“Who is she?” Sam asked. Al looked over at the woman emerging from the other vehicle. As she turned and he got a proper look at her, the color drained from his face and his eyes grew very round. Sam continued speaking, not noticing his expression. “She said her name was Tina. I have this feeling that I know her. I just can’t put my finger on where I have seen her.”

Ziggy doesn’t seem to think that she’s the reason that you are here.” Al lifted his head to look at Sam. “She says your helping her is only twelve point five percent.”

“Doesn’t matter does it?” Al asked a bit too quickly.

          Sam glared at him over his shoulder as he continued to clear the seat. “Maybe not to you, but it does to me. You don’t know what it’s like walking around all the time with only half your memories intact. What data does Ziggy have on her?” Sam didn't notice his friend's uncomfortable demeanor yet.

“Why do you want to know?" He said a bit too hastily as he patted his pockets for a cigar.

Sam turned as the hologram’s evasiveness became evident. “I do know her don’t I? You have that look on your face! Who is she Al?”

“I can’t tell you, Sam.” Al sighed.

“All right, where do I know her from?” Sam tried a different tactic.

“Oh, sure, like I can tell you that.” Al scoffed. "That’d be the same as telling you who she was.”

“Why won’t you tell me?” Sam tried again.

          “You know the reason, Sam. You’re the one who made the rules. If there’s something you can’t remember I can’t help you.”

          “But you’ve broken the rules before.” Sam pointed out. “On more occasions than I can remember! What makes this one so special?"

          “I just can’t. I know it doesn’t make any sense to you, but, well this is different.” Al frowned as Sam tipped his head to one side and a familiar expression crossed his face. "And don’t give me that look, I am not telling you anything.”

          “Tina, Tina, where do I know a Tina from?” Sam said quietly.

          “Knock it off Sam, before I do something that you’ll regret. Jeeze, I’ve never met anyone like you! If you can’t figure something out, you worry it to death until you do, or until you drive everyone else around the bend.” Al puffed deeply on his cigar. "Besides, Ziggy doesn’t seem to think that she’s the reason that you are here.” Al lifted his head to look at Sam. “She says your helping her is only twelve point five percent.”

Sam realized he was not going to get anywhere and dropped his shoulders in defeat. “All right, then, what else did you find out?”

“Not as much as I would have liked, but you can’t win ‘em all.” Al flicked his cigar and took a quick look at the hand link. “You have a job as a bartender at a place called ‘Sharky’s’, you are not married but you are involved. Your other half is a dancer named Dana Silverman.”

Sam backed out of the car as Tina wobbled up on her heels. She passed him a couple of garment bags and asked if he could grab the suitcase out of the trunk. Al watched intently as Tina shimmied up on to the seat. Sam threw him a dirty look.

“Hey, I’m only lookin’ Sam, I’m not touching.” Al offered.

Sam did not comment but Al could read the disapproval in his eyes. The engine growled into life and there was silence for a while until Sam turned to Tina.

“What are you doing out this way?”

“I’m on my way to visit someone in San Diego. I’m starting a new job and it’ll be a while before I can get away again.”

Sam saw an opportunity and went for it regardless of Al’s warning from behind him. “What do you do?”

Tina was silent for a moment before answering. “I’m a research technician.”

“Whom do you work for?”

          Al cringed and wondered whether Tina would give everything away. His relief was profound when he heard her reply.

“People in Washington.”

“Who, the government?” Sam asked.

Tina looked sideways at the leaper and arched a perfectly shaped eyebrow. “What’s with the twenty questions?”

"Attagirl!" Al cheered.

Sam looked suitably taken aback as he realized just how intrusive his inquiries must seem. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry, it’s just that I’m sure I’ve seen you somewhere before but I don’t remember where.”

          Tina considered Sam’s statement. “I’m sure I’d remember you if we had met before. I have a very good memory where men are concerned.”

I’m sure you do.  Al thought, smiling to himself.

It was a long ride to San Bernardino and by the time they got there Sam and Tina were laughing like old friends. She had a sharp eye for details and a just-as-sharp sense of humor. She seemed a bit flashy to Sam, but he was still comfortable with her. When they got to town, she had him pull into the nicest looking motel they could find on the main drag. He helped her unload her things into the lobby.

"Thanks again," Tina said. "I'll arrange for another car and be on my way in the morning. I need a rest!" She giggled and waved him off. "Hey, before you go, can I buy you a drink or dinner or something? To say thanks?" She fluttered her eyes in a teasing way that fascinated Sam.

Al broke the spell. “You gotta work tonight, Sam.”

“I’d like that, but I’m afraid I have to go to work.” Sam replied regretfully.

“On a Friday night?” Tina was surprised. “My turn now. Where do you work?”

Sam relayed the information that Al reeled off. Tina gave him a mischievous look. “I might just drop in and buy you a drink then.”

“You can’t do that, I’ll be working.” Sam protested.

“I won’t tell if you don’t.” Tina winked at him and swayed into the lobby, leaving Sam standing next to Al.

He turned to his friend but Al beat him to the punch. “Not one word, Sam, I’m not gonna tell you, so don’t ask.”



“I Wonder where Dana is?” Al walked around the room. They had arrived back at Todd’s house and the first thing Sam had done was take a shower.

“You said she’s a dancer. Perhaps she works Friday nights.” Sam called out from the bathroom.

“There’s no photos around this place. You’d think seeing as he likes photography there’d be something to show what she looks like.”

Sam walked out of the bathroom. He had a towel wrapped around his waist and he was using another one to dry his hair. Personally, he was rather pleased that there had been no one home when they arrived. It made things a lot less complicated.

“She’s blonde, I’ll bet.” Al remarked.

“What does it matter what color hair she has?”

“You know the old saying, Sam, blondes have more fun.”

“I still don’t see why you are making such an issue out of it.” Sam puzzled, tossing the towel onto the bed.

          “She’s a dancer! That means she’s fit, athletic and she’ll have a good sense of rhythm.”

          “And the point of all this is?” Sam waited for Al to explain.

          “You could always do it to music.”

          “Do what?” Sam’s eyes grew round at Al’s gesture and he took three quick steps away before turning back to the hologram. “I don’t believe you! I don’t even know the woman! What on earth makes you think I’m going to jump into bed with her?”

“Jeeze, you really do live up to Mr. Morals, don’t you?” Al said in exasperation.

“Well I’m sorry if I don’t live up to your lofty ideals, but it’s who I am and I’m not going to change for you or anyone else.” Sam clenched his fists and his eyes darkened as his temper began to rise.

“Hey, hey, calm down, kid! I was only joking.” A serious look crept into Al’s deep brown eyes. “I wouldn’t want you to change, Sam, honestly I wouldn’t.”

Sam’s smoldering anger began to subside. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have let my temper get away from me.”

“Don’t you believe that for a moment, pal. If anyone deserves to get angry it’s you.” Al looked down and studied the hand link, the lights flashed in a seemingly haphazard pattern. “Changing the subject, do you know your drinks? Your shift starts in a couple of hours.”

          “I know how to pour beer.” Sam answered. “And I know what on the rocks means.” He dressed quickly and returned to the bathroom to run a comb through his hair.

          “Well, that’s a start. What if someone asks for a B-52?”

          Sam poked his head out of the doorway and blinked. “They want a plane?”

          “No, it’s a drink. More specifically, it’s a cocktail, which is different from a shooter, and you’ve got other ones like Electric Banana, Avalanche, Italian Stallion.”

          Sam looked at Al incredulously. “Where did they get these names from?”

          “Dunno, but they’re actually some of the tamer ones.”

          “Italian Stallion? That’s what you call tame? Don’t tell me you’ve tried these!”

          Al grinned. “I had to try that one. Didn’t like it, though. Banana liqueur does nothing for me.”

          “What are some of the others called?” Curiosity had got the better of Sam.

          Al thought for a moment. “Let’s see, been a while since I tried any of these, um, you’ve got Prairie Fire, Traffic Light, Zipper, oh, I did like this one, Vibrator.”

          Sam’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. “Do people actually go up to a bar and ask for these without getting embarrassed?”

          “Sure they do, it’s all part of the fun! I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a whole lot of drinks out there that I know nothing about. Come to think of it, it might be an idea if we program Ziggy’s memory banks with a current list of popular drinks, that way I can give you a hand with the recipe if there is one I don’t know about.”

          “Probably a good idea. It would be just my luck to be asked for something that Todd wouldn’t have to think twice about.”





A glass sculpture of a white pointer shark was the first thing patrons saw upon entering Sharky’s cocktail bar. A blue neon light ran around the ceiling and down lights created a subdued atmosphere. Darkened corners were occupied with men and women in ones and twos having a quiet drink to either finish up the week or kick off the weekend.

Sam, dressed in black pants with a white long-sleeved shirt and a black vest patterned with small vivid colored images of sharks, stood behind the bar and looked around the room taking everything in. A jukebox was playing some lively music and the few people sitting on stools in front of him were chatting softly. Al lounged in a corner watching the comings and goings. He had dressed for the part in an outfit consisting of a deep green suit with a brocade vest in a lighter shade and a cream shirt.

The bar was set up similar to others Sam had been to, although it felt like it was several lifetimes ago. There were the usual popular beers on tap and the less fashionable ones were in glass-door fridges behind him. The wall behind the bar was covered with a full-length mirror and lined with shelves containing bottles with names that Sam had never heard of. He had memorized them quickly, knowing that he had to at least appear to be a bartender. So far, the requests had been fairly straight forward; a gin and tonic and a few scotch and Cokes.

          Georgia, according to the small gold nametag pinned to her shirt, placed a tray of empty glasses next to the sink. She wiped her hands on a towel and smiled at Sam. She cocked her head to one side and placed her hands on her hips. “Lonely yet?”

“Pardon?” Sam questioned.

          “With Dana gone. Won’t be back till tomorrow, huh?”

          “Yeah, that’s right.” Sam improvised, grateful for the piece of information.

She smiled a bit wider and ran a finger down his nose and across one cheek, winking playfully. “You’ve been out and about I see. Caught the sun a bit. What have you been doing?”

Sam blushed, deepening the color on his face. “Just taking some photos.”

“You know you’d make far more money if you sold some of your work. The stuff that I’ve seen is really good.” She advised him.

          “It’s only a hobby.” Sam explained.

          “It could be an occupation.” Georgia pressed.

A group of people fronted up at the bar at that moment pulling Sam’s attention away from their conversation.  

The night had passed quickly. As the hour grew later, the busier it seemed to get. It was just after midnight and the crowd in front of the bar was standing nearly three deep. Sam turned from where he was stacking glasses on a tray as he felt a tap on his shoulder.

          “Todd, someone wants to speak to you.” Georgia flashed him a grin and gestured over her shoulder.

          Sam looked up and his eyes settled on the face that still prickled at the back of his mind. “Hello.” He greeted the familiar face.

          Tina smiled and leaned on the bar. “I’ve come to buy you the drink I promised you.”

          “I might have to take a rain check on that one.” Sam grinned, gesturing at the people gathered nearby. “Can I get you something, though?”

“Mmm, that would be nice. What do you recommend?” She fluttered her eyelashes in a flirtatious manner.

Sam cast a surreptitious glance at the gaudily dressed hologram who quickly came to the rescue.

          “I’ve got the perfect drink, Sam. Tell her you’ll make her a cocktail.”

          Sam did as he was told and then followed Al’s instructions in preparing the concoction. When he had finished, he placed the glass in front of Tina.

          “Looks delicious! What’s in it?” Tina dipped her finger in the cream on top of the drink and licked it off.

          “It’s got Kahula, Malibu and Vandermint, which is a choc-mint liqueur. How does it taste?”

          Tina took a sip and keeping her eyes fixed on Sam, suggestively ran her tongue over her lips. “Ooh, I like this. What's it called?”

          Sam cringed when Al smilingly told him the name.

          “It’s called a Flirt.” He repeated as a blush stole up the side of his face.

          “I like you.” Tina giggled as she leaned in closer. “Tell me, what time do you get off work?”

          Georgia came up behind Sam in time to hear the question and to see the color intensify on his cheeks. She eyed Tina and shook her head. “You’re wasting your time, hon, he’s already spoken for.”

Sam glanced at the two women and looked up as someone further up the bar called for his attention.

Tina watched him move away, disappointment on her face. “Are you two, like, together?”

          Georgia laughed. “Todd and me? Good heavens no! Although I certainly wish I could get him interested. No, I’m afraid his heart was stolen a long time ago.”

          Tina’s expression brightened. “Oh well, there’s plenty more fish in the sea.” She picked up her drink catching Georgia’s eye as she turned. “Will you tell him I said thanks for his help?”

“Sure.” Georgia replied wondering what the woman was referring to.



By the time the bar closed Sam's feet and back hurt like heck. It was close to 3 A.M. when he made his way to Todd's house and collapsed on the bed. When he got up in the morning he made himself some eggs, waiting impatiently for Al to show up. He still had no idea why he was here, although he was sure Tina had something to do with it. Al insisted not, but Sam was suspicious.

When Sam heard a key turn in the front door lock, the tumblers falling with a small grating click. He stood in the kitchen with a dishtowel in his hands. This, he supposed, must be Dana. He heard the door open and close, and then a voice called out; a voice that froze Sam immobile, his mouth slightly open.  

“Todd, I’m back! Are you home? Man my feet are killing me.” There was a soft rustle from the furniture then the sound of something dropped to the floor; a shoe Sam guessed absently, followed closely by another. He heard a long drawn out sigh, then another rustle as the person in the other room moved again.

          Sam was frozen by the sound of the voice. He still didn't move when the Imaging Chamber door opened and the Observer stepped into the kitchen next to him.

          Al took in the look on his partner’s face and moved closer. “Sam?”

“Dana.” Sam whispered, eyes wide.

“Is she home? What does she look like? Ten to one she’s a blonde!” Al asked eagerly.

“She…” Sam trailed off as a tall, dark haired man walked through from the other room.

A loving look crossed the man's face as he moved up next to Sam. “Hey you.” A gentle hand cupping the side of Sam’s face followed the tender endearment.

Al froze, shocked, his mouth opening and closing like a fish.

          The dishtowel slid from Sam’s nerveless fingers. “Dana?” He whispered faintly.

“Did you expect someone else?” A smile tugged at the corners of the newcomer’s mouth as Sam’s eyes searched his face. “Hey, I’ve only been gone for two days. Have you forgotten what I look like?”

Sam took a quick look across at the hologram who had finally regained the use of his faculties.

“Sam, she’s not a she…I mean she’s a he…she’s a boy Dana!" Al stuttered.

Sam felt a grin slide across his face at the evident tone of astonishment in Al’s voice. The person in front of him spoke again, drawing his attention back.

“That’s better. I love it when you smile.” Dana’s voice dropped subtly. “Even more when you smile at me.”

Sam stare shifted to Dana. The smile disappeared, and he opened his mouth to respond but the obvious innuendo left him speechless. He looked to Al for support, but the hologram was busy beating the stuffing out of the hand link.

“Ziggy, how could you not know? It’s not something that could be just overlooked, for crying out loud!”

“Todd, are you okay?”

Sam shifted his concentration again. Dana had dropped his hand and was looking at him inquiringly. “Um, yeah, I’m fine, I just wasn’t expecting you.” He responded.

“I was able to get back earlier, so I took advantage of it.” A soft smile skated across his face and he reached down to take Sam’s hand in his own. “I don’t suppose I could talk you into giving me one of your famous foot rubs, could I?”

Again, Sam flicked his gaze over at Al, who had heard the comment and stood staring at Sam with his eyes still wide. Sam felt his heart racing along with his brain. "Ahhh…" he stammered. “I . . . I still have, um, dishes to do. You go into the …uh . . ." he waved in the direction of the living room.

"Living room?" Dana filled in with an odd expression.

"Yeah. Living room. Sure.” Sam stammered, nodding as he backed away towards the sink. "I . . . I'll be right in. When I'm done." He turned his back and began filling the empty sink. He heard Dana finally leave the room. Sam could see him shaking his head in his mind.

“Sam…you can’t…he’s a…you’re a…Sam, what are you doing?”

"I don't know, Al! Why didn't you tell me I - I mean Todd - was gay? Don't you think that is kind of an important detail? How did Ziggy miss that? Or did you just forget to tell me?" Sam's voice was low and agitated, edged in panic.

The handlink was squealing the entire time. "I didn't know either, Sam! No one bothered to look! Or ask!"

"What do I do? I can't go in there and pretend to have a loving relationship with him!" Sam turned off the water and began pacing, nearly tripping over the garbage can. He stared at it for a moment like it had fallen from the sky, then snatched up the bag inside and tied it off.

"Where're you going?" Al asked, waving the link wildly.

"Taking the trash out!" Hissed Sam as he stepped into the living room. Dana had settled on the couch and looked up at him. A big smile broke out over the man's face as he tossed his socks on the floor and lay back on the arm of the couch.

"It feels so good to be off my feet!" He patted the cushion next to him. "Join me! Tell me all about the desert."

"Um," Sam smiled at him and gave a sideways glance at the hologram following close behind. He held up the trash bag and pointed at it. "Trash. Be right back." He escaped out the front door.

Sam made it to the trashcans in record time. "Al! What do I do? I can't do this! What does Ziggy say?"

"Ziggy says nada, Sam, and Beeks had jetted to the Waiting Room to get some ideas from Todd. I don't know what happened! Sue me!"

The idea to grab his friend's shoulders and shake the bejesus out of him entered his head, but he exhaled loudly and shook his head instead. "Amazing." He leaned his hands against the wall. "What should I do?" He looked right at his friend, begging for guidance.

"Well, there are a couple of choices." Al shifted nervously from one foot to the other. "Run like hell, run like hell or run like hell! I don't know what you should do! I just know what I'd do!"

Sam stared at him for a few unbelieving seconds, then much to Al's surprise Sam turned and sprinted away from the house. The Observer tapped a few buttons and popped in floating next to his friend. "Sam! You're not really taking my advice are you? Are you? Wait a minute, Ziggy's blowing a gasket here!"

Sam just kept running as Al regarded the link.

"Sam, Ziggy says your jeopardizing several futures here….everything was okay in these lives! Sam! Where are you going?"

"This….doesn't…feel …. right!" Sam puffed as he ran along the street. "I …can't go…back!!"

"I don't blame you, buddy, but I'm not sure running away's the thing to do, either! Maybe there's more to that relationship than Ziggy can find out. I'll see what Beeks has found out." His fingers danced on the link keys and he disappeared in a rectangle of light just as Sam ran out of breath and stopped.

He leaned against the wall of a business to catch his breath when the sound of a slammed car door drew his attention. Looking up, he saw that he'd run from the residential neighborhood to a small business area, and he was across from a motel. And who should he see but Tina standing at the trunk of a car.

Sam moved across the street without thinking. "Hey," he said casually, trying to appear like he belonged here.

Tina looked up and grinned. "Hey yourself!" She said sweetly. "I got another car, see? I'll make it to San Diego after all, thanks to you. If you didn't come along, I'd be coyote snacks by now!" She giggled.

Sam laughed lightly when a thought struck him. "Glad I could help. Er, I was wondering, could you give me a lift? To San Diego?"

Tina's eyes flickered for a second as her mouth turned slightly into a coy smile. Oh, baby, I could give you more of a lift than you could imagine! She thought, but outside, snapped her gum and said, "Sure, honey! I could use the company! You have some days off?" She turned towards the hotel to check out, and Sam followed meekly, wiping his sweaty hands on his jeans.

"Yeah. Sure. Well, actually, no." Something about this woman made Sam feel safe. He felt he could trust her, even though he knew nothing about her. Inwardly, he smiled, knowing Al would probably have a heart attack when he saw them together again. That alone was worth the request for a ride! "I just need to get away for awhile. Work will do fine without me." He could only hope that was true, but something felt right about the decision. If what he'd heard last night was something to go on, Todd could make a living as a photographer instead of a bartender. Maybe that's why he was here. Whatever the reason, going back into Dana's arms was out of the question.



The ride to San Diego was both entertaining and enjoyable. Tina Martinez-O'Farrell was a quick mind, Sam figured out quickly. He wasn't surprised, however, because everything about her seemed so familiar. Whenever Sam tried to lure her into a scientific conversation, she artfully weaseled her way into a change of subject. Finally, Sam decided to go for the personal approach.

"Is Martinez or O'Farrell your maiden name?"

As Tina squirmed a moment, Sam heard the Imaging Chamber door swoosh open and saw a flash of light in his peripheral vision.

"Hey, Sam, you're gonna like . . . HEY! What are you doing here? What's she doing here? What are you DOING?" Al began to bounce on his toes and juggled the handlink between his nervous hands. "Oh, Sam! This is too close for comfort!"

"Martinez." Tina finally responded. "I sorta like the uniqueness of the combination of names. That's why I use the hyphen." She flashed him a bright-eyed smile. "I like to be unique."

"That's an understatement!" Al quipped nervously.

Sam was enjoying the Observer's discomfort and pressed on. "I don't see a wedding band. Are you divorced?"

"Not yet," Tina said cheerily. "He wants to reconcile. I think putting a few states between us will quash that idea."

"So that's why you took this job? To get away?"

"SAAAAMMMM, let it lie, will you? She's fine!" Somehow an unlit cigar had joined the fray in Al's nervous hands.

From his seat beside her, Sam could still see the sparkle in her eyes as she replied after a moment. "You're very perceptive, Mr. Photographer. That's probably what makes you so good at it."

"How . . . where did you see my work?"

She giggled. "Posted at your work, silly. In the hallway outside the restrooms."

"Oh. Yeah." Sam acknowledged, oblivious. "But you changed the subject. Why are you getting away from Mr. O'Farrell? If you don't mind my asking."

"Sam! Just drop it, will you? You're going to ruin everything!" Al's bouncing had resorted to pacing as the hologram's fingers flew over the link.

Tina's reaction was not what Sam expected. She was quiet for a moment, and she thoughtfully touched her cheek. Then her eyes slid sideways and regarded the aura of Todd. "Let's just say he wasn't the man I thought I married."

"Sam, stop. Just stop, okay? Mike O'Farrell hit her. She needed to leave. Now will you drop it?"

"He hit you?" Sam said, aghast.

Tina blinked in surprise and gripped the steering wheel tighter. "My, you ARE perceptive!" She feigned lightly. "That's the main reason, yes, but I've also sort of found someone else. Someone who has gotten my intellect stimulated again. It's refreshing, and I'm not passing up this opportunity to start over."

"So, you're moving closer to this guy? He's in San Diego? How well do you know him?"

Al clapped his palm to his forehead and groaned. "Jeeze, Sam, you have no idea! Will you just DROP IT?"

Tina's laugh was light and musical, and her eyes flashed with mischief. "My goodness, I had no idea I'd picked up Jiminy Cricket! To tell you the truth, I've only spoken with the man twice, but I've read everything he's written and I love to hear him talk." She grinned evilly. "And he stole my heart! And he's married, to boot!"

Sam blinked unbelievably. His mouth hung open in shock. He glanced at Al, who was shaking his head, his hand pressed to his eyes like he was fighting off a headache.

"Actually, I'm not going directly to the guy. He wants me to meet his business manager or best friend or pimp or something in San Diego."

"Pimp?!" Al exclaimed.

The fact that she was teasing him finally dawned on Sam. "Oh! This has to do with your job! I get it! Very funny, Tina, very funny."

Tina's eyes shined as she giggled. "Gotcha for being so nosy, mister! I can take care of myself, believe me. Now that you've wrenched my secret out of me, what about you? You don't even have a suitcase. What are you running away from?"

Sam felt his face flush. He didn't know where to begin. "Um," he said shakily. "Well, let's just say I left a situation I wasn't comfortable with."

Tina patted his thigh. "Two peas in a pod, honey, that's us. Are you going to stay in San Diego? Do you have friends there?"

"I, ah, don't know."

"You don't know if you have friends? Well, that's pretty sad! I'm your friend, you know. You can stay with me." She smiled seductively. "That might be kinda fun!"

Sam felt his face flush hotter. "I, that's, I don't think. . . um, I'm gay!" he finally blurted out.

"Oh, brother, talk about a lost opportunity!" Al groaned.

"Oh?" Tina's eyebrows arched nearly to her hairline. "Really? Oh, my what a shame for the ladies of the world! That explains why you kept your hands to yourself!" She giggled. "I thought I was losing my touch!"

That didn't help Sam's embarrassment one iota. "No! You’re a beautiful woman, Tina!" He sputtered, flustered. "I'm sure there's lots of hands that would . . . I mean, if you wanted them to . . ."

"Jeeze, Sam, you're certainly Mr. Smooth, aren't you?" Al chided.

"I mean, look at it this way: You haven't lost a b . . .boyfriend, you've gained a . . . a . . . uh . . "

"Shopping partner?" Al suggested.

"A friend?" Tina supplied.

"Yeah. A friend. We can be great friends. You can't have enough friends, can you?" As he said the words, an idea fell over Sam as his instincts kicked in. Tina and Todd - there was something to this, he just knew it. "So, as friends," Sam turned and looked directly at his Observer. "Friends Tina and Todd can talk. Face to face."

"What?" Al pointed back over his shoulder. "You want Tina to go talk to Todd?" Sam nodded. "In the Waiting Room?" Again, Sam nodded. "Why?"

"Sure, honey, face to face! This will be nice, having a man's point of view on boyfriend problems!"

"Well, we all have feelings, don't we?" Sam glared at Al.

"All right, all ready! No need to give me the evil eye!"

Tina sighed. "Yeah, we do. They sure can be a pain in the butt sometimes!"

"You can say that again, sister!" Al snorted as he called for the Chamber door.




          "Well, I'll do it, but what am I supposed to do?" Pulse technician Tina fingered her dangling earring with one finger as she stuffed a tiny screwdriver into her designer leather belt. Al had to grin as her left eyebrow, perfectly plucked to shape, rose curiously. Her lower lip, glossy red and sparkly, pouted for a moment. "Am I supposed to find something out? I do recall some guy rescuing me from the desert once, but I don't think I saw him again after that." The narrow, matched brows now dropped into the shape of a 'V' as she thought and the little dimple that appeared where the brows came the closest transfixed Al. She waited for a response. "Al?"

          "What? Oh, yeah, well," the distracted Observer patted his pockets for a cigar. "Ah, Ziggy says that this history is still in a flux so your memories may be fuzzy. The longer Sam stays in this timeline, the more clear it will become for you."

          "Ok, but what have we talked about so far? This is when I was coming to see you, right?"

          "Right. Well, Sam got one of his gut feelings when you told Todd about why you left your husband."

          Tina rolled her eyes. "Oh, great. My wonderful past out here for all to see." She sighed and tapped one sling back clad foot while her finger continued to toy with her flashing earring.

Al found himself staring at her earlobe as it twitched, and rolled the cigar more rapidly between his fingers. He swallowed and forced his eyes to meet hers. There was a little spark behind the brown orbs watching him.

"Do ya think I'm there to give advice on partner abuse? Didja check this guy's medical history?"

"Just finished," Ziggy's smooth voice interrupted. "In two months, Todd Palmer gets a broken arm treated at a San Bernardino hospital. Nothing is mentioned about abuse. He says he broke it when he fell down."

"Is that so? No police report, then?"

"No, but the x-ray shows the break to be a spiral break of the ulna that would indicate a twisting motion." Ziggy added.

"What are you a doctor now?" Al snorted.

"I am simply reading the doctor's notes with the x-ray," Ziggy sniffed. "But I would conclude the same thing by the picture itself."

"Of course you would. Couldn't it be from a fall? A compression fracture?"


"Ziggy?" Al said shortly. "Did you hear me?"

"If you are going to challenge my replies, then what's the point?"

"I didn't challenge you, Ziggy, so tell me," Tina replied as Al sputtered, finally completely distracted from Tina's lovely figure and mannerisms.

"There's no compression indicated. It's a twist break." The parallel hybrid sounded smug.

"Well, that sounds like a place to start." Al concluded with a glare at the ceiling.

"Did Verbena approve this idea? Is there anything I shouldn't say?"

"Yes, she gave it a go. He's a bit nervous, but communicative. Beeks will watch from the observation room unless you want her in with you."

"Nah." Tina spun on her impossibly high heels and tacka-tacka-tacka'd down the hall. Her short skirt hugged her form quite impressively, and Al sucked in a breath as he watched the material twitch. She flipped an offhand wave at Al as she walked away. "I'll wing it. I usually don't have any problems with guys."

"Ohhh, I bet you have a lot of opportunities for problems, my dear," he whispered quietly. He had to make an applied effort to drag his eyes away from her retreating form and turn back to the Control Room. He let out a bracing sigh. "Back to work, mister."



          When Tina stepped into the Waiting Room and met the eyes of the Visitor, she felt a little rush of adrenalin. She hadn't seen Dr. Beckett's form in awhile. His body was currently sitting on the edge of the bed and the sadness in his eyes made her want to rush right up to him and cradle his head against her chest. She sharply reminded herself that not only was that not professional, but that wasn't really Dr. Beckett.

          "Hi!" She chirped cheerily, waiting for a response to see if she should move closer. "My name's Tina."

          The eyes that met with hers widened in surprise. "Do I know you?" He asked.

          "Ah, well, that's a more complicated question than you know. Can I sit?"

She indicated a spot next to him.

          "Uh, yeah, sure!" He scooted over a little, but was unable to take his eyes from her. "I've never seen earrings like that," he commented.

          Tina wiggled onto the bed and began to swing her dangling feet. "Yeah. I have a friend that makes them in San Diego." She pulled one off. "Here."

          Grateful for a distraction the man took the jewelry and looked closer. "I'm Todd. Nice to meet you."

          "Well, Todd, what do you think of this place?"

          "To tell you the truth, it's pretty scary. And boring. I can't get out of this room." He handed the earring back. "That's pretty neat."

          Tina reattached the twinkling earring. "Did they tell you what this place is all about?"

          The form of Sam Beckett dropped his head and couldn't look any more miserable. Tina again suppressed the urge to hug him. "Yeah, but I don't really get it. Someone is changing something in my life? Fixing something?"

          "Yeah. You saved me in the desert. Remember? My car broke. It was just outside Death Valley." Since she did remember the incident she figured he'd picked her up even without Sam's intervention.

          His head jerked up, and he snapped a finger. "That's it! I remember now."

          "You’re a photographer." She said.

          "Yeah, and you were going on a job interview or something like that? I dropped you in the city."

          "Right." They both smiled and thought for a moment. "You know, I wondered why you didn't hit on me. All men hit on me eventually. But you're gay."

          "Yeah. I guess it just didn't come up." He blushed. "In the conversation, I mean!"

          She laughed at his Freudian slip and he joined her. The gaffe helped both of them to relax a little.

          "I'll tell you why I'm here, Todd. The brains that run this place think I can help you. And when I do, you'll go home again."

          "Help me? How?"

          She squirmed a second then put her hand on his thigh. "How long have you and Dana been together?"

          His eyebrows rose at the unexpected question. "We met at a photo shoot a year ago."

          "Do you love him?"

          He hesitated and dropped his eyes. "Ah, sure. I guess. He's good for me."

          "Good? How?"

          "He takes care of me. I . . . I don't really do well by myself. He keeps everything together. The bills, our expenses. That kind of stuff." Todd's legs began to swing a little faster.

          Tina picked up on it immediately. "But does he make you happy, Todd?"

          "Happy? What do you mean?"

          She decided to take a different tack. "Well, what makes you happy? Photography?"

          "Yeah, I do like photography."

          "And if I remember, you do it well. Why don't you do that for a living? Wouldn't that make you happy?"

          Nervous, Todd slipped from the table and began to prowl the room. "Dana . . . I mean, I don't think I could do that. Have my own business, I mean. It's a scary idea."

          "And Dana agrees with you?"

          Todd nodded. "Yeah. He wants me home, anyway."

          Tina took a moment to collect her thoughts. "My husband was like that. When we dated, he was outgoing and fun and we went out all the time. All that changed when we got married, though. He wanted me home." She caught his eyes again. "After a while he insisted I stay home. Insisting turned into demanding, and then he got physical." When Todd didn't comment and dropped his head to break eye contact, she knew she was on to something. Good call, Dr. Beckett, she thought. "Todd. Now's the time to give it a try. You can do it."

          "No, I don't think I can . . ."

          "Because Dana says so? Tell me, have you ever met any of Dana's exes? No? Did he ever tell you why he broke up with them?"

          "He says they didn't appreciate him."

          "They probably didn't appreciate him controlling them. Has he ever hit you?" Again, the silence told her everything. "Todd, you have to leave."

          Todd wrung his hands. "But I'll never find anyone better," he said.

          Tina barked a laugh. "Oh, so you've met every single gay guy in the world, have you? There a lot more fish in the sea! In fact, San Diego has a thriving gay community and you could do very well there! There's more to the world than San Bernardino, Todd, and San Diego is a perfect place for an outdoor kinda guy like you. You could learn to surf."

          It was Todd's turn to laugh, but then he turned thoughtful. "I did want to learn to kayak, but Dana said it was a stupid idea since there weren't any nearby rivers."

          "Well, I'd say the Pacific Ocean is as good as any river. Come on, Todd. The hard part is already over."

          His head snapped up. "What? What do you mean by that?" His voice took on a tone of panic.

          "Well, it appears that you're already on you way to San Diego, my friend. You don't have to worry about leaving because you've already left."

          "What?" His eyes filled with fear and he froze. "What if Dana finds me? What if he comes after me? What gives you the right to change my life for me?"

          The door swished open and Verbena stepped in, trying to look casual. "Thank you Tina, I think I can take it from here."

          "Wait a sec, 'Bena. One more thing." Tina has dropped from the bed and stood in front of the frightened Todd. She put her hands on his forearms. "Todd. I know you're scared. Believe me, I know. I was in the same position, and it took me a long time to work up the nerve to leave."

          He looked her up and down, skeptical. "But you're so confidant. It was easy for you to leave."

          "No, it wasn't. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. But you know what? I'd do it all over again, honey. Take my word for it. It's the best thing you'll ever do. Like I said, the hard part's over. You can do this."

          She dropped her hand and smiled. "There is something I forgot to tell you. I left for another man."

          "There, see? You had someone!"

          "Yeah, and he's smart and interesting and very, very married. He's my boss. I left to work for Dr. Sam Beckett because he made my brain work again. Get your brain working, Todd. Do what you are meant to do. Don't have any regrets."

          She patted his cheek and he nodded mutely. She could see that he was thinking now, and turned to go.

          "Thanks, Tina. You can fill in for me anytime." Verbena smiled.

          Tina began to tinker with the earring again and smiled back. "No thanks, 'Bena. I'm much more comfortable with wires and circuits!" She turned to the aura of her boss as the door slid open. "Bye, Todd! You'll do just fine. Trust yourself."

          He waved shakily. "See ya. Maybe." A tiny grin lightened his face but it disappeared as soon as the door was closed. Todd turned to Verbena. "So now what?" His fingers began to intertwine in a busy and intricate pattern and Beeks could see the desire for help in his eyes.

          The Doctor smiled. "Tell ya what. I have an idea . . ."




June 17, 1994

Southbound I - 163

San Diego, California


The trip south was actually quite enjoyable. Tina was a superb conversationalist and Sam was quite at ease by the time they pulled off the freeway.

          "OK, you need to be the navigator," Tina said. "My friend lives in an upstairs loft on this street here." Sam saw the sign for University Avenue. "I've been there once, but it was dark and the neighborhood changes a lot. It's sort of an artsy area." She gave him the address and they began their search. "You should see this area at night!" Tina giggled. "Neon everywhere, interesting people wandering around."

          Sam noticed a store called The Head. It sold nothing but condoms. He felt his jaw drop and it hung there for many minutes in surprise. The eclectic stores and riot of colors gave more than enough hints that this was an arts-based community. The tiny bistros interspaced between the stores were busy with customers chatting happily among themselves. The area was so cozy.

          "Here we go!" Tina whipped the car expertly into a parking spot in front of a refurbished older building complete with gargoyles and cement columns.

          Sam stepped to the sidewalk and gazed around. Tina's friend lived above a small storefront with a 'For Lease' sign in the window. A dog hair salon called 'The Dapper Doggery' on one side and a ceramic artist store called 'Fired Up Fred' on the other flanked it. Further down he saw a small pub. Interestingly enough, there was a 'Bartender Needed' sign in the window. Sam looked up to the clouds with a suspicious expression. "Well, that's kinda obvious, don't you think?" He said quietly to God, Fate, Time or Whomever.

          Tina grabbed his hand and nodded at the sign. "See? Opportunities everywhere! Come on! Raisa makes the best mimosas," and pulled him through a narrow glass door between the Doggery and the empty studio. Stairs lead upwards and Sam couldn't help but notice that the face of each stair was painted a different bright color and Tina's heels were very loud on the wooden surface. He ducked his head to avoid staring at her muscled thighs.

 At the top there was a landing with a two doors, right and left. Tina turned left and pushed the door open. "Raisa? Hi, Sweetie!" The sound of shrill giggles and greetings made Sam wince as they reached an impossibly high pitch. They sounded like twins and Sam wondered if the glass windows would break.

He was looking at the windows which overlooked the street when Tina grabbed his forearm and pulled him over. "Raisa, this is my good friend Todd. What about lettin' Todd stay with us? He's great fun and safe, if ya know what I mean." She giggled and winked, and Raisa gave him a grinning, head to toe inspection.

"You're gay?" Raisa could have been Tina's twin, except that her hair was bleached and cut short. They sounded, dressed and otherwise physically looked the same. Sam wondered if there was enough material between their two skirts to make a napkin. "What a shame! Why sure you can stay! We'll have fun!"

"Thanks," Sam stuttered backing into a bookcase. The girls continued to reminisce and Sam couldn't help but notice the books on the shelf - most were thick, old and in German. The selection of classical tomes was impressive, and Sam, knowing Tina, realized that there was a lot more to Raisa than met the eye. Todd could do very well with such a confidant, intelligent roommate. Then he remembered the sign outside. "Um, will you two excuse me? I think I may have a job interview waiting for me."

Tina cracked a grin. "That's my boy! I knew you'd come around. We'll be right here whippin' up some sustenance. You can show us your stuff when you get back!"

Raisa shrieked at the implications of that comment, and they both started giggling again.

Sam was unable to keep from smiling as he backed out the door and retreated down the stairs. He trotted out to the sidewalk and stopped momentarily to straighten his hair and clothing. Then he walked confidently to the pub and paused in front of the 'Bartender Needed' sign. He was about to step inside when he felt that familiar tingling.

He paused, slightly disappointed. He really wanted to know how this one ended, but the uncompromising aura had other ideas.



"Dr. Beckett has leaped," Ziggy droned, bored. Al could imagine her sitting at a desk examining her nails if she had a body.

"Yeah?" Al stopped just outside the Control Room. He'd actually been pretty useless on this leap, he realized. He didn't even tell Sam what he had to do! "What happens with Todd?"

"Todd Palmer enters the 1998 Bartender Olympics in Las Vegas and wins for the first time, representing 'The Place' Pub in San Diego. He holds that title for two more years. He also opens a photography studio in the Hillcrest area of San Diego and calls it 'The View From Here Studio'. He becomes a local celebrity and a popular photographer. Anything else?"

Dr. Beeks has appeared by Al's side as Ziggy finished her summary. "Sounds like enough for me!" She said brightly as she initialed a paper on her clipboard and hugged it close.

"Yeah, Ziggy, thanks." He turned to Beeks. "What happened? Why do I feel like excess baggage?"

"Are you addressing me?" Ziggy asked grouchily.

"No." Beeks and Al said together. They swore the heard a computer equivalent of an indignant 'humpf!', then it was quiet.

Verbena grinned at the ceiling, then reached out an patted Al's arm. "You're not excess baggage, hon. This leap just needed a different point of view."

"So, what did you do, then?" Al asked curiously.

"After Tina unearthed the problem, I hypnotized Mr. Palmer."

"Excuse me? What good would that do? Won't he Swiss cheese like Sam?"

"Admiral, you and I both know that's not an absolute. And I'd like to think that the hypnoses did stick, so to speak, because Todd obviously stayed in San Diego and away from that battering boyfriend. I gave him a calming mantra."

Al blinked. "Something like 'oooommmm' or  'there's no place like home'?"

Verbena grinned. "More like 'I can do this.' And like I said, it must have worked."

"Ah. The Little Engine That Could mantra." He nodded as Beeks punched his shoulder playfully. "Bet that's standard reading in shrink school," he said lightly as he pulled a wrapped cigar from his jacket.

She wrinkled her nose. "Well, I'm listing it as a success. And now I'm leaving you to your habit." The elegant scientist turned to go.

" 'Bena?" Al said quickly. She stopped and turned her head to him. "Thanks. And good job."

She winked and smiled. "Thanks. I could do the same magic to help you with that." She pointed at the cigar like it was a snake.

Al looked shocked. "Not in this lifetime!"

"So I'll keep nagging you instead."

Al grinned with the cigar in his mouth and pulled out a match in full defiance of the 'No Smoking' sign hanging over his right shoulder. "Join the rest of the band, doc. I'll just keep playin'."

          Verbena, not surprised, continued on her way with a smile.




As Sam Beckett's senses returned after his leap in, the first thing that hit him was the smell. Wherever he was, it stank. Then he realized he could hear a muffled beat in the background. It was only when he felt some paper being pulled from his right hand and something else put in its place that he knew where he was. The toilets. That explained the smell. Two men were facing him. One of them was pocketing some money, which was what Sam had felt being taken from him.

"Pleasure doing business with you," the smaller man said, and the two of them left.

What business could they possibly be doing in the toilets? Sam wondered. He opened his hand and peered at the contents: Two pills in a tiny baggie. It seemed odd for a minute until he turned over the bag and saw the 'E' engraved on them. "Oh boy."

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