Author’s Note: It’s ironic that I didn’t start writing Quantum Leap fanfic until after the series finale. But then again, how many series finales have screamed for resolution quite as much as that one did? I wrote the poem first, and then wrote the story around it. I was a lot younger than the characters at the time and, well, it shows. But I still like the concept of the story–and the series–so I’m sharing it anyway.
How can I watch you walk away again?
Just as before
I will never know
If you will ever return–
Can ever return…
But I know you.
It was one of those times when the tears just wouldn’t stop coming. They fell on her hands, softening the ruggedness of work and worry that had become part of them over the past five years. They fell on the handlink, glistening like smooth-cut diamonds against the fluorescent cubes. She lifted one damp hand, careworn to the point of fragility, to touch the larger shape of Ziggy’s CPU.
“Run sequence,” she whispered.
In the Imaging Chamber, Admiral Al Calavicci poked tersely at his own handlink as the plethora of images swirled around him. Inside the spinning holographic column, his face could be seen, lined and shadowed with desperation, his haunted eyes searching…
Despair hung more heavily than ever over the small assembly. Gooshie stood across from Donna at the CPU, his hands hanging limply at his sides instead of hovering hopefully over the console. Verbena, for once, did not notice Donna’s tears. She stood alone, wrapped in a shell she would have tried to pierce for anyone else. Al’s wife, Beth, balanced on the edge of her chair, her eyes fixed grimly and intently on the Imaging Chamber door while her husband still stood unmoving in the eye of the hurricane of pictures. Even bubbly Tina, who usually tried to distract Gooshie by flirting with him, was somber, slowly twisting the engagement ring he had given her.
How different it had all been last week! Then hope had surged with Ziggy’s announcement that history was still changing. Somehow, a small family in Kansas had been spared a suicide that originally devastated them. For one brief moment, a balloon of hope had floated within reach of the downward wending road and the small team had seized it. Below them though, the road had continued to descend, so when the balloon burst because they were too late to intercept Sam in Kansas, the fall was devastating.
Hours passed in silence broken only by Ziggy’s steady hum. Finally, at a nod from Donna, Gooshie raised his hand to the bright console and stopped the whirlwind. As always, within seconds Al’s voice came over the intercom from the Imaging Chamber.
The little programmer jumped, and looked towards Donna for help.
“It’s after midnight, Al,” she told him with forced calm.
“I can find him, just give me a little more time, please!” The Admiral’s voice was pleading.
Donna bit her lip, trying to stem the flow of tears. What if he was right? What if they were close to finding him and giving up now would lose that chance?
Beth stood, and her eyes met Donna’s weakening resolve with a silent reminder. Dr. Alessi nodded.
“Ziggy, record the time sequence covered today and be ready to start again tomorrow morning.”
“Yes, Doctor,” the computer replied calmly.
The Imaging Chamber door slid open and Al appeared in the opening, his face bleak and his bright red suit rumpled. He cast Donna a fierce glare that softened into a sad smile at the sight of her red-streaked face. Beth touched him gently on the arm and he glanced up at her with that same puzzling ironic look that his face always wore every time he saw her after coming out of the Imaging Chamber.
“Miss me?” he commented gruffly.
“Of course. I always do.”
She kissed him lightly on the cheek and smiled knowingly. “I love you, Al.”
“I love you too, Beth.”
Ever since Al had fainted at the sight of Beth waiting for him at the Imaging Chamber door on the day Sam disappeared, this brief conversation had become a sort of daily ritual for the Calaviccis. For the first time in their more than thirty-five year marriage, Al seemed to need almost constant reassurance of Beth’s continued presence and affection. Donna wondered what had happened between them and how it was connected to Sam’s last Leap. She was tempted to ask Ziggy, but somehow she knew that this was a private matter between Al and Beth. They would tell her if she needed to know.
Beth took her husband’s hand and squeezed it. “Let’s go home. Remember, Lisa and Trudi go back to school tomorrow morning.”
Al’s face brightened at the name of his two oldest daughters. “I guess I owe them some time then, eh?”
“I’m sure they would appreciate it.”
Al sighed and put his arm around his wife. “OK, let’s go.” He glanced towards the console. “I’ll be back bright and early.”
Donna shook her head. “If you plan to stay up all night with your girls, you should probably stay home and get some sleep.”
The Admiral started to protest. “But I’m the only one who can…”
“She’s right,” Beth interrupted him calmly. “You’ve been wearing yourself out, Al. Please get some rest before it kills you.”
“In fact,” Donna resumed speaking hesitantly. “I’ve been thinking for a while, and I think we all need a day off.”
“If we take a day off, we may miss him!” Al objected sharply.
“We’ve been vigilant ever since he disappeared and we still missed him,” Donna reminded him. There was an awkward silence. Much as they might have wished to, none of them could dispute that statement.
“Look at us,” she continued. “Do you really think we’re going to do Sam much good like this?”
No one answered.
“I want to find Sam more than any of you possibly can, you know that! But what if we did find him, and were too worn out to do anything about it?” She turned to Al. “How are we going to get in touch with Sam if you give yourself a heart attack by overworking yourself to the point of exhaustion?”
Al nodded grudgingly and Beth led him out of the room, exchanging one last nod with Donna. The rest of the staff slowly drifted out, Verbena by herself, Gooshie and Tina hand in hand. Only Donna remained behind.
“Is it ready, Ziggy?” she asked quietly as soon as everyone had left.
“Yes, Doctor Alessi,” the computer answered. “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Yes,” was the whispered reply. “I can’t wait any longer. I miss him too much.”
Your life has no value if you cannot give
For the sake of someone else–
“They just called Trudi’s flight,” Samantha announced.
Trudi laughed and rumpled her younger sister’s hair. “I know, Sam. I can hear just as well as you.” She picked up her carry-on bag.
“Now remember to get some sleep on the plane,” Al cautioned his daughter.
Trudi’s merry eyes sparkled. “Look who’s talking, Dad.”
“Oh, he’s going to sleep as soon as we get home,” Beth assured them, smiling.
Lisa laughed and hugged her younger sister. “You were smart, taking a plane. I hope I don’t fall asleep at the wheel.”
“You’d better not!” Al warned.
The Admiral’s oldest daughter grinned. “Don’t worry, Dad. Stephanie’s driving first since she got plenty of sleep.”
“Well, I’d better go,” Trudi reminded them. Hugs were exchanged all around. “Hey, Ruthie, you gonna come visit me?”
Ruth, a senior in high school nodded. “Of course. I have to decide if I want to go there with you, don’t I?”
Trudi grinned and turned to board the plane, blowing a kiss behind her. Samantha raced to the window and gazed out of it, her eyes fixed on the plane. As soon as the gate closed behind the last boarding passengers, the rest of the family joined her.
If Trudi were looking for them out her window, they would have been easy to spot. Al and Beth were standing behind the girls with their arms around each other. She had her head on his shoulder and her dark hair stood out against his silver flight jacket. She was wearing a simple blue dress, almost the same shade as her husband’s tie, but lacking the metallic sheen. In front of their parents, the other three girls were alternately sitting or kneeling on the wide window ledge, waving vaguely at the plane in hopes of being seen by their sister. Like Trudi, Lisa and Ruth favored their mother, although Trudi alone had inherited their father’s naturally curly hair. Samantha though, was purely her father’s daughter, from her face, which mirrored his, to the brightly colored vest she was wearing with a green blouse and her favorite floral jeans.
They stood there at the window, like a family portrait with one face missing, until the plane had taken off and disappeared into the clear blue desert sky.
Al didn’t fall asleep until almost noon, even though Ruth and Samantha’s awareness fled the moment they hit their beds. Beth remained awake, gazing pensively at the ceiling of the master bedroom.
Her mind had leaped backwards in time to a night in San Diego in 1969. Their song, hers and Al’s, had been playing in the background, and she was dancing. Although Al was far away, if not dead, she seemed to sense his prescence. With her eyes tightly closed she could almost feel his hands in hers, then he seemed to kiss her…and she heard him say goodbye. When she opened her eyes again to his absence, all her hope had dissipated. For the first time, she believed that he was dead. She believed it as fervently as if his spirit had been with her, and had told her, even though she heard his voice ringing in her mind, asking her to wait. For one awful moment, she was certain he was never coming back. Then, unbelievably, she had heard a sound, and turned to see a man standing behind her. He was a stranger, dressed in a short-sleeved white shirt and long brown slacks, but for some reason she trusted him. Maybe because he said he was a friend of Al’s. He sat her down, and told her: “Al’s alive. And he’s coming home to you.” Tears had streamed down her face, clouding her vision, but not enough to keep her from seeing the stranger disappear in a blaze of blue light. She thought he was an angel…and she had believed. From that day on, every day of waiting had been bearable, because she knew…
Donna’s face floated in her mind. Beautiful dark wavy hair pulled hastily back from a careworn face, whose beauty still shone through the shadows and lines. Eyes that had so captivated the young physicist on Project Star Bright were haunted with an indescribable depth of sorrow. She was so different from what she had been fifteen years ago, the night Al had introduced Sam and Donna to Beth when he brought them home for dinner for the first time. That night she had recognized him, and after hearing his dream of traveling through time, had known he was her angel. That night she had formed a special friendship with the beautiful young woman, somehow knowing Donna would someday have to face the familiar agony of being cut off from the man she loved.
Sighing, she rolled over on her side to face her husband. For the first time in weeks his face was peaceful. No, she wouldn’t tell him. He would try to stop them, but more importantly, it would rob him of that brief peace. She could hear as clearly as if they had been spoken the words he would say if she told him what she was going to do.
“I have to help her, Al,” she whispered in explanation to the sleeping figure. “Sam stopped me from giving up hope on you, can I do any less for his wife? I know what she’s going through better than anyone else on the Project. I know why she has to do this…and I have to help her.”
She kissed him softly on the cheek and quietly slipped out of bed. It took only a moment to shed her nightgown and replace it with the dress she had been wearing earlier. Downstairs in the living room she lightly tapped the fluorescent, multi-cubed wrist band that each member of the Project wore as an audio link to Ziggy when not using a handlink.
“Ziggy,” she whispered.
The computer’s melodious voice filled the room as if she were present. “Yes, Nurse Calavicci?”
Beth smiled. She remembered how long it had taken her to persuade Ziggy not to address her by her Naval rank.
“Is she ready?”
“Doctor Alessi is ready and awaiting your arrival.”
“Good. Tell her I’ll be right there.”
Your devotion is total.
The debt you owe,
Though never claimed,
Will be repaid.
The life that held you
For so long,
But never touched you,
Will be preserved,
And only that half-fallen friend
Will remain to comfort me
When you have gone.
“Where are you, Al?”
“I’m right here, Sam. I’ll always be here when you need me.”
Sam shook his head. He looked straight at his friend, but somehow, his eyes saw nothing, just as most people he helped in his Leaps could never see the hologram.
“No, Al. You’re lying to me. I don’t know why, but you’re lying to me. You haven’t been here. Where did you go after that last Leap? Why didn’t you find me?”
He grabbed Sam’s shoulders and tried to shake him, but as always, his hands met no resistance, and this time Sam didn’t even know he tried.
“I tried. Damn it, Sam, I tried to find you! I’m still trying!”
“I can’t do it without you, Al.”
“Sam, I’m trying…”
“I just want to come home.”
“I’m trying to bring you home, Sam.”
“Don’t give up on me, Al.”
“I won’t. I promise I won’t. Hang on, Sam. I’ll find you, I promise!”
“I won’t fail you, Sam!”
Al sat up in bed, awakened by the sound of his own voice. He was trembling uncontrollably. Regret and failure grasped him firmly and shook him the way he had tried to shake Sam in the dream.
“I won’t fail you!” he repeated emphatically.
But I have, I have failed. I’m sorry, Sam. I’m so sorry…
He reached one hand towards Beth’s side of the bed, searching for some sort of comfort. She was gone.
Had it all been a dream then? Had he just imagined that Sam had given her back to him, possibly sacrificing his only way home to do so? The arctic hand of fear wrapped itself around his heart. Please, no. Please don’t let it be…
There was a loud rap on the door.
“Dad!” Samantha’s voice called. “We’re gonna play Monopoly. Wanna play?”
Relief swept over him, melting away his fears. Beth was still his. His girls were still here. They had apparently just gotten up before him.
“Yeah, I’d love to play. Just let me get my robe on.” He swung his feet over the edge of the bed, glancing at the clock as he did so. 1:06 PM. Strange that he could feel so refreshed after one hour of sleep, and after such a dream.
The door flew open and Samantha burst into the room. “Hurry up, Dad!”
He chuckled. “I’m hurrying, I’m hurrying. Where’s your mom?”
“Over at the Project.”
Al turned to his daughter, startled. “What’s she doing there?”
“Helping Aunt Donna.”
Samantha shrugged. “I dunno.”
“I thought Donna had ordered everyone to take the day off.”
His youngest daughter merely shrugged again. “C’mon, Dad. Ruthie always cheats when you don’t play.”
“I do not!” Ruth’s voice called indignantly from downstairs.
Al laughed and patted his daughter lightly on the back. “I’ll be down in a minute, ok sweetie?”
She grinned, her face dimpling, and bounced out of the room.
Al closed the door behind her.
“Yes, Admiral?” the computer responded calmly.
“Is Beth there?”
“Yes, Admiral, your wife is here.”
“Doctor Alessi is also present.”
“Where is Beth?”
“In the Control Room. She has just left the Imaging Chamber.”
Al’s eyes narrowed. “Where is Donna?”
“In the Accelerator Chamber.”
The Observer inhaled sharply. “WHAT?!”
“Doctor Alessi is in the Accelerator Chamber,” Ziggy repeated calmly. “If my audio transmitters are not functioning properly, I can increase the volume.”
“No, Ziggy! Donna…she’s not going to…”
“Yes, Admiral. I believe that is her intention.”
“Well, stop her!”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Admiral.”
“Stall her then!”
“May I ask why?”
The Admiral was already hurriedly getting dressed.
“Because if I get there in time, I’M going to stop her!” He paused and glanced at the wedding picture of Sam and Donna that Sam had given him. They were looking at each other, their eyes filled with the kind of love that would make someone do anything for that other person. Suddenly, he knew what Donna was doing.
“Or at least try to.”
But even though my memory will fade,
And other loves will fill
The void I leave behind,
If time permits,
You will strive to fulfill
That forgotten promise–
The promise you gave me
When you held me for the last time–
That you will return to me.
Donna stood in the Accelerator Chamber, her figure strangely mummy-like in the dwarfing white fermisuit. She smiled at Beth, whose holographic image had been projected by Ziggy from the Imaging Chamber to test the neural link.
You promised, Sam. You promised me you’d be back!
“Can you hear me all right?”
Beth nodded. “Clear as a bell on this end. Does this guarantee it will work across time as well, though?”
“Distance and time don’t affect it, or Al would have more trouble finding Sam the farther back he went. As long as we’re both mentally stable, it should function regardless of where or when we are.”
Where are you, Sam? When are you? Why can’t we find you?
Beth reached out a hand to Donna, but the two hands passed right through each other. Donna laughed uneasily. “I forgot about this part.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
How can I not? Oh, Sam, why won’t you come home to me?
Donna nodded. “I have to find him, Beth. I can’t go any longer, not knowing.”
Beth indicated her agreement. “I know. When Al was a POW I would have given my right arm to be able to go over there and look for him.”
I’ll find you, Sam. I have to. Oh, please, Love, let me find you.
The two women smiled sadly at each other.
Donna took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I’m ready.”
Beth nodded, and the Imaging Chamber door appeared behind her. “Good luck,” she whispered, and stepped through the opening into the bright light of the Control Room. The door slid closed, and any trace of the link vanished for the time being.
In the Control Room, Beth lifted her hand to the console. “Ready, Ziggy.”
Slowly the silvery walls of the Accelerator began to gleam with a pale blue light. Something resembling steam swam up from the circle beneath Donna’s feet, circling around her and blowing her loose hair into a brown whirlwind above her head. The air below her pressed upwards against her outstretched arms, as if trying to lift her off the ground. And indescribable energy began to surge through her body.
Donna lifted her eyes to the ceiling of the Chamber. Already she could feel herself being pulled away, and she could almost see her destination. A thrill of hope ran through her, energizing her even more. She closed her eyes as if in prayer.
I’m coming, Sam, she promised silently…
That even if your mind forgets me,
Your heart will ever sense mine
And your soul will never release me.
You will always love me
As I love you,
Because I know you.