He Moves in Mysterious Ways

I hated to wake up. Bad as the nightmares were, I hated waking up. I kept dreaming we'd gotten stuck somewhere, trapped in some distant time with no way back, no way out.

I'd yell Sam's name and he'd just hold out his arms, apologising. Dammit, this isn't the way it's supposed to be. We're supposed to reach the end, solve that last puzzle, do that last good deed. We're supposed to come home. We're supposed to be the good guys.

We're supposed to be happily ever after. It isn't fair.

I didn't want to face it again. I wanted to keep dreaming, wanted to stay wrapped up in my own personal nightmare because I *knew* that one would end. I knew that everything I saw wasn't real. I could take that. I could take anything, if I knew it wasn't really happening.

Every time I wake up I have to remember what *is* real. I wish I could just go back to sleep. Nightmares, where is thy sting? Or something like that. Who cares. I can't take this anymore.

"Sam, what are you doing?"

I don't think I sounded as angry as I pretended. Actually I was kind of surprised, and a little amused. I mean, after all this time I know pretty well that Sam's gonna do whatever whatever he wants. Whatever he decides is the right thing. Me tellin' him what Ziggy says, or what *I* think about whether he's gonna make more trouble or less, stops changing his mind at a certain point. He just looks at me -- god, I really love that look -- and he's exasperated with me, knows I'm only telling him for his own good but would I please just shut up and offer something *helpful* already?

I just wave my hand like 'I don't care, do what you want' and even if I walk away for a bit I'm always there when he needs me. I always come back in time to offer the sort of advice or moral support he wants to hear. I wouldn't really *leave* him. Just walk away long enough to let him know he can't order me around.

Even if he can. Even if he knows he can. I gotta keep up the appearance that I've got a mind of my own. Otherwise he'll stop trying to convince me to help him and I'll miss out on all those pleading looks. The way his eyes get big, and he stares at me... the way he looks like he wants to reach out but since he can't touch me he won't hurt us both by trying. So he just looks at me and says my name like he's wrapping himself around me.

God, I love that man. I'd do anything he wants. All I need is to see his face when he asks.

Where was I? Oh yeah. I was trying to talk him out of doing something I thought he shouldn't do. As soon as I'd asked him what he was doing, he gave me a look. Not *quite* the one I'd been after, but still it was a good one. Not good enough, of course.

"Sam, I don't think you oughtta do that."

This time he rolled his eyes. "Al, I know we have to get them back together. I just think this is the best way to do it."

"Ziggy says--"

"I *know* what Ziggy says." He's cute when he's arguing. His voice drops since he doesn't want anyone to know he's arguing with a hologram who they can't see or hear anyway, and he starts hissing at me, like we're sneaking back into barracks after hours and he doesn't want the sergeant to hear us. "Would you just trust me, Al?" It makes me want to sidle closer, let him talk quiet as he likes.

Of course I trust him. Most of the time. I mean, nobody can be right *all* of the time. Not even Sam. Sometimes, horribly, especially not Sam.

He wasn't right this time. It took less than a minute with me standing in the imagining chamber yelling for Gooshie, for us to figure out just how wrong he was. When I'd left him, Sam had headed back towards the house where the young woman was waiting for her boyfriend. Sam had an idea to get them reconciled. Even then I was thinking, yeah it should work. I got back to the lab to give him some time with her and everything hit ground zero.

Gooshie came running up and the expression on his face was worse than the first time when Sam had leaped and he'd told me what had happened. All I could get from him this time was that Ziggy was saying 90% chance of failure. I couldn't understand why that had everyone so freaked until Gooshie dragged me over to Ziggy's main screens.

It was the 90% of *what*, which made it failure, that stopped me cold. For nearly two seconds I stared at the readout, then I spun and ran back into the chamber, screaming at them to get ready to send me back, target in on Sam even though I knew where he had to be, god I'd only watched him walk over there a moment ago.

Sam thought she needed another chance. Thought she only needed a little apologising, a little romance -- pretty words and promises melt a lot of women's hearts. Not this one. This one was angry. Too angry to even let Sam start talking, much less start apologising and charming her.

I was barely into the room when I saw her fire.

Back in the waiting room Verbena went to talk to the guy whose life we'd tried to change. Laying the groundwork for getting him used to his new home. He was only from ten years back so the adjustment wouldn't be too bad. I heard a couple of her assistants wondering whether they should consider plastic surgery, give the guy his old face back so the change wouldn't be too hard.

I didn't even stop as I walked out. I think I heard Gooshie call my name, but I didn't even look back. All I could see was Sam, my Sam, lying on the floor as the blood spread slowly out the hole in his back. Dead men don't bleed.

They just leak.

It's usually at the funeral, when I'm just getting ready to try and figure out what I can possibly say about having lost the man I love, when I wake up. I don't wake up screaming, gotta say that for my time in 'Nam. Taught you to have your nightmares silently. Not that it really matters because it isn't like there's anyone beside me to wonder why I'm yelling Sam's name.

This morning was bad as they ever got. I'd been standing at the podium, looking out at all of Sam's friends, our co-workers, anyone who ever knew him and wanted to remember him. I'd opened my mouth to say something like 'we're gathered here today' when instead I opened my eyes and saw my own bedroom form around me.

According to the clock it was late enough to stop trying to sleep, and get on with it. I didn't want to, but as they say, you gotta do what you gotta do. I gotta go to work. We're trying to refine the Quantum Leap project to better control the leaps. Maybe send someone back one leap at a time, let him or her come home weekends or something. Like a regular job.

Verbena was already arranging possible candidates for the tour. She'd asked me to help pick out the people who would serve as their guides, the ones who'd do what I'd done for Sam. Asked me about helping train both groups. So far I'd managed to say yes without getting myself into work that made me remember too much.

Unfortunately it all made me remember. Going in to the lab everyday made me remember. Parking in my usual spot, next to the one with the sign saying "Dr. Beckett" made me remember.

Waking up alone made me remember.

I couldn't tell Verbena why I wanted to say no, because she didn't remember. She didn't even have a clue. Besides, it wasn't like I had a whole lot of other options. What else is there for a ex-astronaut, ex-secret-project jockey, to do? Used cars? OK, so maybe I'd be good at that. Make a little money, at least. All it would take was lying to little old ladies and cheating them blind.

Hanging out with Sam hasn't been *that* much of an influence on me. I wouldn't have been able to do that even before I met him. Poker was more my style. Win money from suckers asking to be taken. Whatever. All it meant was that I woke up early, and had to do everything I could to delay getting in to work. Without getting in so late that anyone raised an eyebrow. Too many demerits and they send someone in to talk to you.

Last time they'd sent him in. I'd managed to avoid him all *month* and they send him right into my office. I should have been glad, I suppose. First words out of his mouth told me I should have been very glad.

"Hey, Al. Donna asked me to stop by -- she was supposed to, but she's in the middle of an experiment and didn't want to interrupt it. She said you've been having some trouble?"

He gave me that concerned look, with those gorgeous puppy-dog eyes. It was his tone that did it, though. That damned, distracted, 'they asked me to come so I did since you're my friend but I have other things to do and I'm really here because my wife asked me to come' tone.

His wife. His blessed-be-damned wife. They'll have been married for seven years this May.

What did I ever do, God, to deserve losing him?