When she can't sleep, Sammy Jo lets herself into Project HQ and talks to Ziggy. Sometimes they talk about work, or about Sam, or about life at the Project. Sometimes they talk about events and people outside the Project (Should she go on a second date with Guadalupe when dating outside the Project is so difficult? Is it worth risking the wrath of Gooshie to take a little extra time off to see her mother at Christmas?) Sometimes Al and Gooshie are there, fixing some crisis in the past, and she leaves them alone when they are. She can access Ziggy's voice interface from anywhere in the compound, and Ziggy is powerful enough to not be distracted by a single conversation, so on one of these nights, she holes up in her tiny office and wraps herself in the fleece blanket she stores on the shelf for just these occasions.
"Yes, Doctor Fuller?"
"What is it like for you when things change? When the past changes?"
Ziggy whirrs quietly for a second. "Given my connection to Doctor Beckett and Admiral Calavicci, I am sheltered from the changes to the timeline. When they make changes to the timeline, the external records I can access change instantaneously, while my internal memory banks remain unchanged. Effectively, I can remember both the original timeline and the changed timeline simultaneously."
Sammy Jo nods.
"Why do you ask, Doctor Fuller?"
"Because..." Sammy Jo closes her eyes and decides to just say what she's thinking. She can always order Ziggy to keep quiet about it later, if she has to. And she has the feeling that this is going to be important somehow. "Because sometimes when I talk to you, I can remember your voice being male."
Ziggy whirrs again. "Clarify: how do you mean 'remember'?"
"Do you mean, do I remember it like I remember everything I've ever read, or do I remember it like I remember a dream?"
"It's kind of both," she replies. "Sometimes when I remember talking to you, the memory of your words is in a male voice and a female one, both at once. I don't think it's a dream I'm remembering. Usually I know when I'm dreaming."
"You remember correctly, Doctor Fuller. My voice has been male for approximately fifty-two point three percent of my existence. It's surprising that you remember; it changes fairly often," Ziggy says.
"Whenever the timeline changes?"
"Whenever the timeline changes in a way that effects the team who programmed my voice, yes."
"So why do I remember? Shouldn't I be as oblivious as everyone else is?"
"Perhaps your eidetic memory provides you a measure of immunity to changes in the timeline," Ziggy suggests. "Aside from Doctor Beckett, nobody else on staff possesses a photographic memory on your level."
That kind of makes sense, but it doesn't explain anything. Still, if Ziggy doesn't have any better ideas, then that's all she's going to get for now.
"So I guess that explains why I keep expecting the paint in the corridors to be blue..."
Sammy Jo doesn't forget that conversation, but she doesn't dwell on it, either. The months immediately following it are hectic, full of crises and dead ends. And finally, one night in November when she's finally looking forward to a full night of sleep and not having to be at headquarters at five in the morning, her emergency cell phone rings.
She doesn't even look at the phone until she has a t-shirt and a pair of pants on, and she answers the phone as she dashes out the door.
"We need you in the Control Room immediately," Ziggy tells her, and continues as she gets into her car and speeds toward headquarters. "Admiral Calavicci is having a health crisis, and Doctor Beckett needs immediate assistance in the Imaging Chamber."
"I understand," Sammy Jo says, "but why me specifically?"
"The scans of you we have on file indicate that you are the most likely person to be able to communicate meaningfully with Doctor Beckett in the Imaging Chamber."
She wants to ask why. Instead, she speeds up and tells Ziggy she'll be there in fifteen minutes.
Ten minutes later, she arrives in the Control Room where Gooshie and a medical doctor named Natalie Carillo are standing over Al, who is lying on the ground, almost in the fetal position.
"Thank God you're here," Carillo says. "I need to get him into surgery, but the stubborn fool wanted to be sure you made it here first."
"Nothing the good doctor here can't fix. They're pretty sure it's appendicitis." Al turns gingerly back to Gooshie and Carillo and grimaces. "You're sure I can't just go back in there? Just to be safe? I had to leave Sam in a real bitch of a problem in there."
All three of them immediately protest. Al makes another face, but relents and looks back at Sammy Jo. "Okay, fine. Sam's in 1980, in Colorado Springs. There was a small explosion at the construction site Neal Freeman -- the guy he leaped into -- works in. He had nothing to do with it, but in the original history, Freeman was arrested, and... and it didn't turn out well for him. The foreman really has it in for this guy, so he lied to the cops. Ziggy's found a safehouse, but you'll need to guide Sam there and make sure he stays out of the way until the cops realize they're after the wrong guy."
Sammy Jo nods. "What do I do?" she asks, and Gooshie stands up to address her.
"Ziggy's already reprogrammed everything she can to make sure Sam can see and hear you, and we both think it'll work, so you're just going to need this." He gives her the handlink. "I'll help Natalie get Al into the medical bay, but I'll be wearing my radio. I'll be back here as soon as I can. And you'll have Ziggy."
Sammy Jo nods and opens the door to the Imaging Chamber.
She's only seen the Chamber inactive before, and if it weren't for the fact that she can't touch or smell anything (and that the color kind of fades out a little every thirty seconds or so), she could swear she's outdoors.
She looks around for Sam, and finds him hiding between a large juniper bush and a trash can. He looks up at her, and she's surprised to see how much older he looks now than he does in the photographs taken before his first leap.
"How's Al?" Sam asks, before Sammy Jo can think of something appropriate to say.
"He'll be fine. They think it's appendicitis."
"That's what I told him. He wouldn't listen to me, and it isn't like there was anything I could to do stop him, so he eventually just collapsed."
"He's survived worse than this. He'll be back soon enough. I'm Sammy Jo Fuller, and I'm here to get you to the safehouse." She sees a spark of something in his eyes when she says her name. It could be recognition. It probably is, though she doesn't know why. But then it fades, and she looks back at the handlink. "We're going to have to go about three miles northeast without getting caught. Have you had any trouble with the local law enforcement so far?"
"Not yet. I don't think they've sent Neal's picture to everybody yet."
"That's good. Let's just take a little walk, then. The longer we can move openly without being caught, the easier this will be."
So they walk. Sam doesn't talk much -- he doesn't want to be seen talking to a person nobody else can see -- but he keeps sneaking glances at her. Sammy Jo, for her part, keeps to guiding Sam through the streets of Colorado Springs, despite the questions she has for him.
"There's an alley back here," she tells him, about a mile into their journey. "It's empty, and it should take a couple of blocks off the trip. Plus, that way we avoid the police officer at the intersection up ahead."
Sam nods and turns, walking the walk of a person trying to blend in. He's gotten very good at this in the years he's spent leaping.
They find the safehouse easily enough, thanks to their sharp eyes and Ziggy's directions, and as soon as he knocks six times on the back door, the caretaker wordlessly shepherds Sam into a windowless room with green wallpaper and an ugly lamp, and closes the door behind him.
As soon as they're certain nobody else can hear them, Sam asks "Your mother is named Abagail, isn't she?"
Sammy Jo tries to sit on the edge of the mattress that sits on the floor, and falls through it. As Sam sits on the mattress next to her, she replies, "Yes, she is. How did you know?"
"I-- I met her, on a leap. Two or three times, I think. There's a lot I can't remember."
"One of the worst things about having a photographic memory," she says, smiling, "is when you can't remember something." And that's when she thinks of Ziggy's voice, and the similarity to Sam that Ziggy had mentioned earlier.
"I think I met you, too. You were very young."
"Brigadoon," she replies, and that's all it takes for everything to come rushing back to both of them. "You were the lawyer. Larry Stanton."
"And I was your grandfather the day he died. And I was Will Kinman, when--"
"You're my father." She knows this now the same way she knows her heart is beating in her chest. Sam nods. He looks as stunned as Sammy Jo feels. "And you're who Grandma Laura talked about. I'd always assumed it was a delusion, but I'd wondered, after coming here. Did-- did you know?" she asks, knowing Sam will understand her meaning.
"Yes. I found out just after I met you. Al told me I'd probably forget, and I did, but there was always a part of me that knew. Always." The clock on the wall ticks ten times before Sam speaks again. "Samantha Josephine Fuller, I wanted to stay with you, and with your mother. I wanted it with all my heart. Right now, knowing everything I do, there's nothing I regret more than having to leave you, and even when I couldn't remember, I always remembered that regret."
Sam holds his hand out, and Sammy Jo reaches out as if she could grab it. It's almost like they're holding hands. When she speaks, the accent she's mostly lost comes back even more strongly than it had when she was back in Louisiana for Marie's funeral.
"Don't. I don't want you carryin' all that around. Not on my account. And I know my mother wouldn't, either. I was so scared for Mama at her trial; I know if she'd gone to prison I'd have completely lost it. And if you hadn't been Larry Stanton that day, she'd have lost. I'd have tuned out of everything. This way, I still have a mother. And I have George -- he's my stepfather -- and Katie and Danny. And I have Lupe. And now I have you too. I think I must have known about it on some level," she says. "I knew as soon as those men from the government showed up at my door that this is where I was meant to be. And now I know why."
The tears on Sam's face match the ones Sammy Jo feels dropping down her cheeks. "Tell me about yourself," he says. "You know, I have a sister named Katie too."
Sammy Jo smiles. "I know. I expect to hear all about her just as soon as you've heard all you want about me. Let's see. After the trial, we moved to Chicago, and my mother met George. He was real good to us, so very kind. Still is. Even before he married my mama, he treated me like his own blood. Danny and Katie are twins. She's a florist now and he's still not sure what he wants to do with his life. I told him to get a Ph.D. and come here," she says, and they both laugh. "I went to the University of Chicago for undergrad so I could stay close to home. Graduated at 18. Columbia pretty much offered me anything I wanted if I'd stay there long enough to get a Ph.D., so I did, and pretty much as soon as I got my doctorate, there were two men in suits knocking on my door and asking if I wanted to join a top secret project in New Mexico. My Ph.D. is in particle physics, but I program computers too. And I'm the two-time champion of the PQL bowling tournament."
"A renaissance woman," Sam says, and smiles. Oh, how she wishes she could touch him. "And you had to have gotten those degrees at true Beckett speed. What about now?"
"Now? Well. I live alone, but have a cat named Bat, and I'm seeing someone who really loves and respects me and understands that I can't talk about my job."
Sammy Jo nods.
"I'm glad you're happy. You deserve to be happy. I should have been there for you. I want to have seen you grow up. I've missed so much."
"I don't feel like that," she says, and is surprised at exactly how true it is. "I feel like I've just gained a new part of my life. I feel like I've found something I never knew I wanted."
Sam smiles more broadly than Sammy Jo has ever seen. So that's where her smile comes from. "That's a good way to think of it. I think I'll follow your lead."
They sit next to each other -- her on the floor, him on the mattress -- and keep talking, until there finally isn't anything more to say except "I'll see you again. Soon. And I'll bring you home." She's made promises before, but never made a vow until this moment.
She blinks tears away as the blue light engulfs Sam and the holograms in the Imaging Chamber disappear, but when she walks out of the Chamber, her eyes and face are dry.
The employee lounge is the closest room with decent seating, so she heads for the lounge, just to sit down for a minute. The next thing she remembers, she's waking up on the couch in the lounge, covered in one of the blankets from the Waiting Room.
When Al sees her at the door of the infirmary that night, he sends the nurse on duty out for a coffee break. He's definitely lucid, which is good, but it's strange to see him in a surgical gown instead of one of his many garish outfits.
"Feeling better?" she asks.
Al smiles. "Yeah. The doc says I should be out of here in a couple of days. I can't believe that little nothing organ brought me down. And at my age! You know, nothing kept me out of the Imaging Chamber before. Not funding cuts, not timeline changes. Nothing."
"I'm sure you've been a model patient," she laughs, but soon she turns serious. When she activates Ziggy's voice interface, he winces.
"Well, now I know you knew. I wasn't completely certain until just now."
"Sammy Jo, I'm sorry for not telling you," Al says.
"I'm not angry. Well, I'm a little angry. I don't know what I am. Why didn't you tell me?"
Al takes a breath, but before he can speak, Ziggy cuts in. "If I may explain, Doctor Fuller?" Sammy Jo nods, and Ziggy continues. "Admiral Calavicci and I mutually decided not to inform you of your true heritage. The timeline had changed to bring you here; in your new position, you had already been working here for two years. Doctor Beckett had lost his memory of you after leaping out, and at the time we did not think you would be able to talk to him. I calculated at the time that informing you would cause more harm than good."
"And then there's Donna," Al adds.
"Oh, God. I didn't even think of her," Sammy Jo whispers, and suddenly she's all she can think about. What must it be like for her, having a time traveler as a husband? Having to keep the details of her marriage a secret for so long, and not even being able to talk to her family about it? Knowing he doesn't remember her?
And what is she to Sammy Jo now, anyway? Her stepmother, she assumes, but does the time displacement make things different? How would she react to finding out that her husband has a child she doesn't know about, raised by someone else?
"Does she know?" she asks, because everything else is predicated on that.
The look on Al's face answers the question for her, but his words help to clarify. "She knows some things. She knows that Sam doesn't remember her most of the time, and that he's slept with other women because of it. She knows he has a child. But she doesn't know who you are."
"Do you think we should tell her now that I know?"
Ziggy answers this time, voice implacable as usual. "Taking into account Doctor Alessi's psychological profile, as well as her reaction when Doctor Beckett and Admiral Calavicci switched places, there is an eighty-five point three percent probability that with time she will take the news well, though it is unlikely she will fully embrace you as family."
Sammy Jo nods slightly. "I wouldn't expect her to. So, telling Donna won't ruin her life. That's good. But what about not telling her? When Sam comes back and he starts remembering everything..."
They sit in near-silence for a moment.
"I think she needs to know," Sammy Jo says. "Keeping it a secret made sense when you were protecting me too, but now that I know, it wouldn't be fair to not tell her."
"Would you like me to arrange for the two of you to meet with Doctor Beeks later this week?" Ziggy asks. "You could meet with her on your own first, and she could mediate once Doctor Alessi arrives."
"I think that's a good idea. But don't schedule anything too soon. I have no idea what I'm going to say."
"I'd wondered," Donna says that Thursday afternoon in Verbena Beeks' office. "You don't look like him, but there's something in your eyes."
"Doctor Alessi -- Donna --" Sammy Jo says. "I want you to know -- I don't expect you to welcome me as part of your family. I don't even really want that. I already have a mother. But... I want you to know that no matter what happens, I'm going to bring Sam home. I'm sure that the three of us will have to have a good long talk when he gets back. For right now, I hope we can work together to make sure that talk happens."
Donna's eyes glisten slightly, but she smiles and holds out her hand for Sammy Jo to shake. "I'd like that."
Beeks turns the conversation toward the fact that it's perfectly okay for their feelings about each other to be conflicted, and they try to keep to the topic at hand, but the shop talk keeps trickling in. Eventually Beeks kicks the two of them out so she can catch up on paperwork, as they obviously aren't in need of counseling at the moment.
Fifteen months later, when Sam stumbles out of the Waiting Room and Al dashes out of the Imaging Chamber and Donna rushes to hold her husband for the first time in years and Gooshie pops open a bottle of champagne that seems to have come out of nowhere, all Sammy Jo can do is close her eyes and whisper "I told you I'd do it."
And when Sam looks up and beckons for her to join the impromptu group hug, it's the best feeling in the world.