Author’s Note: This was the very first full Quantum Leap story I ever wrote and one of the first fanfic stories I published online. Whether it stands the test of time or not, well, I leave that up to you.
Al turned to Gooshie, startled. “What?”
“He’s Leaped!” the little programmer repeated, his voice rising with panic. “Admiral, we’ve lost him!”
Al muttered a curse under his breath. “Reset the search parameters and start it up again!” he howled, striding quickly towards the Imaging Chamber, bracing himself against the dizziness the operation was sure to bring on.
Gooshie nodded and his hands began to fly over Ziggy’s CPU.
Al punched at the handlink, his face pale. The Imaging Chamber door slid open with a sarcastic hiss, as if taunting him with his friend’s disappearance.
“What is going on?” he grumbled to himself. “Sam, how on earth did you know what to do to Leap out? I hadn’t even figured it out yet!”
He strode to the center of the room, trying not to react to its emptiness. Always before when he had entered the Imaging Chamber, another world awaited him–Sam’s world for the moment. He had never been able to touch that world, but at least it had been there. The bare walls stared at him, and their metallic gleam seemed to press at him from all sides.
“Ready, Ziggy,” he stated gruffly. Within moments a spinning column of pictures surrounded him, blocking out the horrible blankness of the room. Each picture and each year spun by him, too fast for his eyes to catch. Only his neural link to Sam would take hold of the right picture and hang on to it. He had succeeded in finding him before. He knew he could do it again if he just concentrated hard enough…
Me, he realized with a start. Wherever you are, Sam, it has something to do with me!
Filled with excitement he raced to the door, not trusting the intercom to safely relay this precious information. It hissed open almost eagerly, and he opened his mouth to tell Ziggy the narrowed parameters.
Someone stepped into his line of vision, her beautiful face so much like what he remembered…
“Beth…” he whispered.
She stared at him, her face lined with concern. His eyes scanned her quickly, hoping to once again memorize the vision of her before this hallucination faded. His eyes dropped to her hands. She was wearing a wedding band–the one he had given her.
Al felt suddenly weak. His head spun and darkness threatened to overcome him.
“Al, hon, are you all right?” Beth asked.
That final shock hit him like a bullet and knocked him into blackness.
It was her voice. That beautiful voice that had kept him alive for so many years in Vietnam was calling to him. He could feel himself beginning to come back to awareness, but he pulled back. He wanted to revel in this dream where he could still hear the way she pronounced his name with so much love. Reality was too horrible in comparison. Reality was five broken marriages, jealously wondering if Tina was cheating on him with Gooshie, and trying so hard to bring Sam home. Reality was that Sam was lost.
I’m here with you, Beth. I know this must be a dream, but I’d rather be in a dream with you than out there all by myself. They can’t compare to you, hon, those other girls. None of them ever did. I tried to find someone else, but none of them were ever you…
He had even imagined that she had been waiting for him. Waiting for him at the Imaging Chamber door. As time passed he could even vividly imagine that she had been waiting for him when he came home from ‘Nam. He could see it, right down to the way her smile lit up her face when she saw him…
“Al,” the voice called again.
He was coming out of it, despite his resistance. Strangely, her voice seemed to get louder the closer to awareness he got.
He opened his eyes. She was there. The face above him was thirty years older than he remembered, but it was just as beautiful. As the rest of his senses gradually returned to him, he realized that she was cradling his head in her lap, the comforting softness of her hands gently caressing his face.
“Al, are you all right?”
It was real! It was impossible, but it was real! She was there!
His own words rang in his head: (“Aw, God, Sam, I love her. Beth is the only woman I ever really loved. She’s the only one I ever wanted to grow old with. That’s why all my marriages never worked after that. Sam, if you’re lucky, life is gonna give you one shot at true love and Beth was mine.”)
But Sam had refused, insisting that wasn’t what he was there to do. Even worse, he had been right.
Suddenly, Al knew where Sam was, where he had to be.
Much to the surprise of those around him, he lurched to his feet. The handlink lay where he had dropped it when he fell–fainted was a little too embarrassing to admit to–and he snatched it up on his way to the Imaging Chamber.
“Gooshie, set the Imaging Chamber for 1969, San Diego, California! NOW!”
Startled, the little programmer began tapping at Ziggy’s console rapidly.
Al glanced over his shoulder, drinking in every inch of Beth with his eyes. If he found Sam, she might be gone again when he returned, but still he had to try.
“I love you, Beth,” he said, then disappeared as the door slid shut behind him.
“Got it!” Gooshie’s voice came excitedly over the intercom.
For one brief instant, the house he and Beth had shared in San Diego appeared around him. Beth, her lovely young face streaked with tears of joy, was sitting across from a brown-haired man in a short-sleeved white shirt and brown trousers. Al’s heart seemed to stop for a moment.
Sam turned, and Al was sure that he saw him. A smile quickly lit up the physicist’s face and he lifted a hand as if in farewell. Al started to speak.
Suddenly, electric blue light exploded outward from Sam, filling the Chamber with blinding brilliance.
“Sam, NO!” Al screamed in desperation.
It was too late. The light of the Leap faded to reveal the empty room.
“Sam…” Al’s voice, faint as it was, echoed in the hollow chamber.
He searched his mind, looking for another clue like the one that had guided him before, but there was nothing. Sam was gone, and somehow he knew there would be no one in the Waiting Room.
He didn’t hear the door slide open behind him, or the sound of Beth’s shoes as she hurried towards him. He didn’t realize he had fallen to his knees, staring blankly at the chamber wall, the handlink fallen from his hand. Then, Beth’s arms were around him and he finally allowed himself to give in to the terrible sense of loss.
As he had not done since that terrible day in the past that no longer existed, when he had found out Beth wasn’t waiting for him, Al began to cry.
End Note: I know I took some liberties with the scene of Sam and Beth in “Mirror Image”, but since the camera went to Al’s photo at that point, I figured this could have been going on in the background. At least that way, they were able to sort of say goodbye.