Chapter 1: Donna
She awoke slowly, feeling the new energy of a new day gradually fill every part of her body. From her back she rolled to her side, wrapping her arms around the pillow and squeezing her eyes shut tighter to block out the sunlight that was seeping through her closed lids. For a few moments, she allowed herself to revel in the peace and comfort that enveloped her. It was an unfamiliar sensation, though she didn't know why.
Suddenly, all relaxation was swept away by an overwhelming feeling of urgency.
What am I doing? I can't sleep! I have to find him!
Her eyes flew open and she sat up quickly in bed, startled to find herself in unfamiliar surroundings. She was in a sterile white hospital room that had been turned into a garden. A tall vase of dark red roses sat on a small table beside her. The dresser across from the foot of the bed was hidden beneath a jungle of carnations, lilies, orchids, roses, ferns--an extraordinary number of ferns--and baby's breath. The window was blocked by a similar plethora of plant life.
I have to find... As her consciousness returned fully, the last vestige of that knowledge seemed to evaporate. Her breath caught in her throat and her heart leaped with panic. She had to remember! It was vital that she know...
No! Please, I have to remember!
Tears formed unbidden in her eyes as she searched her mind desperately for this essential piece of knowledge. There was nothing.
I must remember something...my name..what is my name?!
Suddenly the door of the room opened. A young man with glasses and a prematurely receding hairline stepped into view and pulled the door shut again behind him. His face brightened upon seeing that she was awake.
"Well! It's good to have you back in the land of the living again!"
The woman in the bed leaned back on the pillow, confused.
"How...how long have I been out?" she asked, dazed.
"You have been unconscious for almost a week, Miss Marshall."
Miss Marshall? Somehow the name didn't sound right.
"I'm afraid somebody tried to kill you. Y'know, that's why I never want to be famous. Having fans can be dangerous business these days."
"I'm not surprised you don't remember," he continued. "I wouldn't want to remember something like that either, especially at the premiere..."
She was getting more confused by the moment. "Are you sure you don't have me mixed up with somebody else?"
The doctor laughed. "I doubt it would be very easy to get Ferne Marshall mixed up with anyone else. Your face is all over Hollywood since your latest film came out."
Ferne Marshall? Well, that explained the abundance of ferns in the room.
She shook her head wearily. "I suppose it's just me then. I'm sorry, but I don't remember any of that."
That attracted his attention. "What do you remember?"
"Nothing," she replied helplessly.
Her companion's face furrowed with concern. "We didn't expect any amnesia...I'll have to recheck your chart."
My name is Donna! A sharp intake of breath accompanied this sudden realization.
"Are you all right, Miss Marshall?"
"I'm not..." she began, then stopped. Just play along, some instinct told her.
"You're not what? You're not all right?"
"I'm not...um...I'm not...feeling very well."
"I would expect not. Gunshots tend to make you feel pretty awful for a while."
Donna stared. "I was SHOT?"
He nodded, a shock of unruly brown hair bobbing up and down at the back of his head. She chuckled, causing him to look up curiously.
"I was just thinking that I must look pretty awful," she explained, smiling at the rebellious lock of hair.
"No, actually you look pretty great. Especially for having been unconscious for a week. Here." He gave her a small hand mirror that had been lying on the table beside the roses on the bedside table.
Thick auburn hair surrounded the face that stared back at her with pale green eyes. Though the face was beautiful, a scream fought to escape from Donna's throat. That's not me!!
The doctor took one look at Donna's white face and came running to her bedside.
"Is something wrong, Miss Marshall?"
She shook her head slowly. "I think...I think I need to rest.." she said weakly, her voice faint.
"Yeah, sure. I'll come back later."
Donna nodded and the doctor turned to leave.
"Doctor..." He turned back to face her and she held the mirror towards him. "Would you please take this with you?"
Chapter 2: Sam
"How can we thank you enough?" Jenny smiled and kissed Sam on the cheek. "You've been like a guardian angel too us. I don't know how we would have made it without you."
Warren squeezed her hand and reached his other hand out to Sam. "I tell you I'd get more in the habit of pickin' up hitchikers if they were all like you, Sam. Sure you don't want anything?"
Sam smiled and shook Warren's offered hand. "I'm sure. It was my pleasure."
"Well, you be careful out there. The road can be a dangerous place, you know."
Jenny leaned her head on Warren's shoulder. Her face was more content than it had ever been in the brief time he had known them. Her hand that was not in Warren's rested on the shoulder of their young son, Barry. Sam realized with a pang that he missed being part of that picture. Even though Leaping as himself had many advantages, he was always alone. Even Al had not been able to find him, apparently. He was always a stranger, wandering into the lives of other people, hoping to help them set right a few of the things that had gone wrong in their lives. He missed becoming instantly part of a family, not having to earn trust because it was given to him, many times, along with the face he wore. He could feel the Leap coming on, and briefly he wished that maybe at least once more he could have that experience, confusing as it was, of being in the middle of something.
"Well, I've got to get going."
Warren nodded. "Thanks for everything, man."
Sam smiled and turned to walk away. Before he was out of their sight he felt the Leap overtake him, but he didn't mind. It had happened before, and he figured the people just assumed that he was their guardian angel. Maybe he was.
Blue electricity and time finally overcame him and he Leaped...
Into the middle of a melee of sound and microphones.
"How does it feel to have saved the life of someone as famous as Ferne Marshall?" a voice called above the din.
"Do you know if you will be allowed to see Miss Marshall when she recovers?"
"Mr. Kemp, are you a fan of Ferne Marshall's films?"
"Uh...no comment," he stammered. Someone took him by the arm and began to part the sea of people before him. Bewildered, Sam trustingly followed the unknown Moses. Behind him, the torrent of voices and flashbulbs persisted.
"Oh, boy!" he whispered.
Chapter 3: Meanwhile
"Would you rather I have forced her to stay here, gradually losing her hope?"
Al shook his head impatiently, trying to remain unmoved by Beth's logic.
"No, but I didn't particularly want to have two of them to look for either!"
"That's what I'm here for," Beth replied calmly.
"But what about the girls?"
"I consulted the girls about it before Lisa and Trudi left and they agreed with me. Ruth even offered to watch Samantha when we both have to be here."
Beth placed a restraining hand on her husband's arm. "I know what I'm doing, Al. I would have done anything to go over to 'Nam and look for you when you were there."
Al opened his mouth as if to object, and Beth smiled sadly.
"In this timeline at least," she amended.
The Admiral stared at the cigar in his hand, frustrated. "I guess I feel like she gave up. Like she decided I couldn't find him, that I'd failed..."
Beth took Al's chin firmly in one hand and looked him straight in the eyes. "You haven't failed anyone, Al. You've done everything humanly possible--maybe more--to find Sam. Maybe this is the only way *to* find him."
"Well, then it should be me! I promised I'd bring him home..!"
"Do you think I'd let you out of my sight if I thought you were going to do that?" Beth scolded. "I need you here, Al. We need you here. *Sam* needs you here."
There was an awkward pause. "No one else can contact Sam, Al," she reminded him. "He needs you here."
Suddenly, Gooshie's voice came over the intercom, filled with excitement. "Admiral Calavicci! There's someone in the Waiting Room!"
"Yeah, I know, Gooshie. You a big Ferne Marshall fan or something?"
"No, no! I mean someone ELSE!"
Al looked at Beth, startled. "She can't have Leaped again already! You haven't even spoken to her yet, how would she know what to do?"
"Admiral, you don't understand!" Gooshie insisted. "It's DOCTOR BECKETT!"
There was a brief, stunned silence. "Wouldn't that be just like him to come home right after she Leaps out to hunt for him?" Al muttered.
"Is he sure it's Sam?" Beth asked.
"Gooshie, are you sure?"
This time Ziggy's voice answered him. "There is a 50% probability that this is Doctor Beckett. Nevertheless, it is equally possibly someone he has Leaped into. You will be able to see for certain, will you not?"
Al nodded. His neural link to Sam enabled him to see the visitors in the Waiting Room as they really were, instead of with Sam's face. "We'll be right there."
It was the face of a stranger. To Al, the face of the young man in the Waiting Room was as unfamiliar as the many other faces that had come through there since Sam's first Leap. Even though Beth couldn't see it, she knew by the expression on her husband's face that his best friend had not returned. Silently she took Al's hand to reassure him.
"Well," he commented. "At least we'll know where he is now."
"I'm sorry I did not inform you earlier, Admiral. However, I thought you would prefer to see for yourself," the computer interceded.
Al nodded. "Yeah, Ziggy."
Beth frowned. "You knew it wasn't him, Ziggy?"
"Of course. Since the neural link that enables your husband to see Doctor Beckett as himself is established through me, doesn't it make sense that my visual sensors would have the same capability? I also see Ferne Marshall in Dr. Elise's place, as you do."
"Do you think we should put him in another room?" She indicated the man wearing Sam's face.
Al shook his head. "Nah, let 'em get acquainted. They probably won't remember a thing about it afterwards anyway."
Chapter 4: Beth
Donna's eyes flew open at the sound of her own name. Standing beside her bed was a pretty, middle-aged woman with shoulder-length brown hair and kind eyes wearing an emerald green blouse and black skirt.
"How did you know..?" she began.
The woman smiled. "We've been friends for a long time. I certainly hope I know your name."
Donna frowned, trying to call up a picture of this woman in her mind, but everything except her own name still escaped her. "I'm sorry, I..."
"I know you don't remember me, but that's all right. I'm Beth."
"Pleased to meet you...again. I guess they told you I've got amnesia, huh?"
Beth smiled. "Well, no, not exactly. In fact, that diagnosis wouldn't be completely accurate. What you've got is what we call a swiss-cheesed memory."
Donna smiled at the accuracy of the term. "It's a typical symptom of what you've been through," her companion continued.
"You mean being shot or whatever?"
Beth laughed. "No. In case you haven't already figured it out, you're not the one who was shot. You're not Ferne Marshall."
"I'm glad somebody finally noticed. What am I, some sort of Secret Agent surgically altered to look like her in order to catch the gunman?"
"Well, something like that, although I'm afraid it's a bit more complicated."
"More complicated? Oh, boy!"
Beth smiled at Donna's subconscious usage of Sam's favorite expression.
"You're right about one thing, it is secret. So secret that I can't even fill you in on all the details you've forgotten. Only what you need to do what you're here for."
Donna nodded curiously.
"Your name is Donna Elise, and you're one of the top administrative and research associates on Project Quantum Leap. The reason you can't remember much is the same reason you see Ferne Marshall's face when you look in the mirror. You've traveled twenty-two years back in time."
Incredible as it was, the story rang a faint bell in Donna's mind. Without any further explanation she was able to connect the two seemingly unrelated mysteries.
"Yes, I remember...sort of. But then how did you...how can you...?"
Beth held out one hand towards her. "Take my hand."
Donna reached for the outstretched hand and her fingers passed right through it. She stared openmouthed at the ghostly visitor.
"I'm a neurological hologram, projected from your own time to help you. Because of this, I can only be seen and heard by you."
"You're just a hologram? But I thought you said we had been friends for a long time?"
"I'm a hologram to you, but where I am, which is what we call the Imaging Chamber, you and everything else here is a hologram to me."
Once again the bizarre explanation made perfect sense and small bits of memory were coming back to fill in the details.
"So, if no one else can see you, I guess I'd better not talk to you when there's anyone else around."
"That's a good policy, although sometimes we'll have to talk in the prescence of others. I'd suggest just trying to phrase what you say to me in a way that they'll think it's directed at them."
Donna nodded. "Did I volunteer to do this?"
Beth smiled sadly. "Yes you did."
The hologram hesitated. "I'm afraid I can't tell you. One of the rules we operate under is that we can never tell you anything about yourself that you don't remember."
The woman in the bed stared at her in disbelief. "But you don't understand how important this is!"
"Yes I do, Donna. Believe me, I understand better than anyone, but I can't tell you."
"Will I ever remember?"
"I don't know, Donna. I hope so."
"How long will I be here, anyway?"
"Until you do what has to be done here. In the original history, there was a second attempt on Ferne Marshall's life, and that one was successful. Ziggy says there's and eighty-four percent chance you're here to find the killer and stop him."
"But wait a minute...what happens if I don't succeed?"
"Then you won't Leap."
"And I'll be the one who ends up being killed..."
Beth smiled ironically. "I'm afraid so."
Donna sighed and shook her head. "I never realized time travel was such a dangerous pastime!" There was a heavy pause, then she spoke again hesitantly. "Beth...who's Ziggy?"
Chapter 5: In the Waiting Room
The Limo pulled up at the curb and she stepped out, glancing back with a smile at her fiancee, Allan Gardener.
"I'll meet you inside," he promised.
Around her, flashbulbs flared, cameras clicked, and voices were raised in cheers and questions. One reporter's voice caught her attention.
"And now here's the lady we've all been waiting for, the star of 'Crosswinds,' Miss Ferne Marshall!"
The television camera beside the reporter swung in her direction and she gave it a dazzling smile. The reporter edged his way through the melee to her side. "Miss Marshall, do you have anything you want to tell us about this film?"
Putting on the face she always wore for the cameras, Ferne smiled again and steeled herself for the barrage of questions that was sure to come.
"Well, as you know, the film is about..."
She never finished her sentence. There was a gunshot and she felt a sudden pain rip through her shoulder. Suddenly, the crowd erupted into a chorus of high pitched screams. She felt someone grab her arm and pull her down. Another gunshot rang out, and she could hear security shouting above her head. She turned her head and her eyes met those of a young, dark-haired man lying beside her.
"Are you all right?" he asked urgently.
She nodded weakly. Consciousness began to slip away from her, but she heard the man shouting, "Somebody give me something to stop the bleeding. I'm a paramedic!"
Ferne sat up with a gasp. Ever since she had awakened in this strange room after the assassination attempt, she had been reliving the incident every time she fell asleep. The terror and confusion of the event still clung to her and she began to cry softly. A man of about forty-five or so with a sincere face and a startling shock of white in the front of his hair, dressed in the same kind of white garment she had been surprised to find herself in, was sitting in a plain chair not far from her bed. He looked up, startled.
"Are you all right, ma'am?"
She nodded uncertainly. "As well as can be expected, I guess."
Her companion breathed a sigh of relief. "That's good. At first I thought you were in a coma or something, but the Admiral said you were just sleeping." He smiled. "You're a pretty sound sleeper, ma'am. I'm trained to know the difference between asleep and unconscious and I couldn't even tell."
Ferne smiled back and brushed her hair away from her face with one hand. "The Admiral?"
"Admiral Albert Calavicci, short Italian guy, came in and asked me a bunch of questions about myself." He shook his head, amused. "They didn't give you the third degree?"
"Well, someone did come in and ask me questions, but it was a nurse named Beth. I assumed they were trying to make sure my memory hadn't been affected."
"Do you know where we are?"
"I assume it's a hospital."
He smiled. "Funny, I kinda thought it was some sort of top secret military installation."
Ferne tried to smile through the wave of dizziness that came over her. Her unfamiliar companion looked startled.
"Are you sure you're all right?"
She nodded. "I think maybe I should lie back down..."
He reached out and placed a hand on her shoulder to steady her. Suddenly, the face before her changed. She gasped and the young man who had saved her life pulled back as if a similar change had come over her. For the irst time he seemed to recognize her.
"Miss Marshall!" he exclaimed, startled.
"You...you're the man who saved my life!"
He nodded, his face ashen and bewildered. "I'm sorry, but up until a second ago, I swear you looked like someone else!"
"So did you!"
Jack's face reflected her own confusion. "What's going on?"
"I don't know, I don't understand either. I think your theory of where we are may be the correct one though..." She glanced around the sealed, sterile room. "This reminds me of the spaceship set from one of my early films."
"It does look kind of like one, doesn't it?"
Their eyes met, a mutual suspicion hovering between them.
"Well, wherever this place is, I get the feeling information is not going to be volunteered."
Jack's eyes scanned the room. "I'm with you on that one."
"We haven't been formally introduced, have we?" she changed the subject.
"No, I guess not." He held out one hand to her, hesitantly. "My name's Jack Kemp, Miss Marshall."
"Pleased to meet you, and please call me Ferne."
"Oh, no I couldn't..."
"Please," she repeated. "We may be here together for a while so I'd rather be on a first name basis." She took his hand and shook it firmly.
Chapter 6: Back in Business
Sam had just collapsed onto the couch in the elaborate hotel room when there was a knock on the door. He stood reluctantly and walked to it, praying that the person on the other side was not a reporter.
"Um...who is it?"
"Judy," a woman's voice called.
Well, that certainly helped. "Uh...yeah...uh...Judy who?"
The woman laughed. "Judy, your sister, Jack! Don't tell me you don't remember my voice?"
"My sister...yeah...of course." He fumbled with the lock. The door opened to reveal a tall, dark-haired young woman who smiled familiarly at him. "Of couse I remember you...Judy. Please, come in."
"You've made quite a name for yourself, Jack." she tossed a newspaper she had been carrying onto the couch. "You even made the front page."
Sam picked it up and quickly read the article. "FAN SAVES FERNE MARSHALL FROM ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT: Jack Kemp, 28, of Long Beach, California, saved the life of Ferne Marshall last night at the premiere of her new movie, 'Crosswinds', when an unknown gunman fired at her from the midst of the crowd. Without regard for his own safety, the young paramedic threw himself in front of the star, pulling her to the ground. Although the first shot did hit Miss Marshall in the shoulder, Kemp used his skills to stem the bleeding. Miss Marshall is currently in the ICU of Cedars Sinai Hospital but is expected to make a complete recovery. Doctors say that without this young man's intervention, Marshall would have died." His eyes moved quickly to the date on the paper.
"September 10th, 1978," he mumbled. Not the seventies again!
"Hey, I know it's last week's paper, but the story is still pretty hot."
Sam nodded. "Last week's...So today is the..."
"Seventeenth," Judy supplied helpfully. "Losing track of time, huh?"
"Yeah, I guess the days have kind of just...run together."
"Well, no wonder with all this madness. There are more reporters outside this building than there are fleas on a dog!"
Sam smiled at the analogy. "I noticed."
Judy's eyes took on a wistful look. "What's she like, Jack?"
He looked at her, startled. "Who?"
"Ferne Marshall, of course."
"Uh...well, I...I...she's...um..." Sam stammered.
His visitor sighed. "That's right. They said she passed out right after you got her down. I guess that doesn't really count as meeting her."
Sam Beckett alias Jack Kemp breathed a sigh of relief. "I guess not."
He turned his head abruptly at the sound. A smile spread over his face at the sight of Al standing behind him with a deep frown on his face, a cigar in one hand and a handlink in the other. He was wearing his dress whites.
"Uh, would you excuse me for a moment, Judy? I need to, uh..." He pointed vaguely in the direction of the bathroom.
Judy smiled. "That's okay," she assured him, standing. "I need to get going. Just wanted to bring that by."
"Yes, well thank you very much. Um...give my love to...everyone, will you?"
"Sure thing. Bye!" She gave him a quick hug an slipped out the door.
Without turning, he tried to anticipate Al's response to Judy. "She's his sister, Al." He turned to face his friend.
Al looked startled. "What did I say?"
"All right, what did you think I was going to say?"
"What do you always say when you find me in the same room with a beautiful woman?"
"Geez, Sam! I'm a married man, for crying out loud!"
Sam stared. "What? Again?"
Al waved his hand to dismiss the statement. "I can't tell you anything you don't remember, remember?"
"All right, all right. Where have you been, any way?"
At this point, his friend exploded. "Where have I been?! Where have YOU been?! We've been hunting all over time for you ever since that last Leap...!"
Sam interrupted, puzzled. "What are you talking about?"
"That Leap you took when you decided to start going solo, or something!"
Al fixed his eyes on his friend's face. "You don't remember, do you?"
Sam shook his head. As far as he was concerned, Al was babbling.
"Sheesh! It's that damned swiss-cheesed memory of yours! Always kicks in when I want to yell at you!"
"What did you want to yell at me about?"
"For leaving me out of the picture on your last few Leaps!" he grumbled.
"Why would I do that? How could I even if I wanted to?"
"Beats me. That's what I was going to ask you."
There was an awkward silence.
"Al, I'm sorry. I don't know why I would have done anything like that..."
The hologram brushed it aside. "It's OK. Probably wanted to spare me or some idiotic thing like that. Besides...I need to thank you, too."
"Thank me for what?"
"For Beth. You gave her back to me, Sam."
Sam smiled, realizing now what had brought on the change in his friend's attitude. "I thought you weren't supposed to tell me that if I didn't remember."
Al shrugged. "What good is a rule if you never bend it? Besides, you bent the rules to get her back for me."
The physicist shook his head. "I wish I could remember..."
"It doesn't matter. WHat matters is that you gave her back to me. That's the greatest gift anyone could give me, Sam. I can never thank you enough."
Sam nodded. "Well, how is she?"
"She's doing great, and so are our girls."
Sam raised an eyebrow. "Your girls?"
Al smiled affectionately. "Yeah. We've got four daughters. Ain't that a kick in the butt?"
Sam laughed. "Actually it seems remarkably appropriate."
"What are their names?"
"Elisabeth, Trudi, Ruth and Samantha."
The younger man smiled. "Samantha?"
"Yeah, we named her for you but she came out looking like me, poor kid." He grinned. "She even inherited my fashion sense."
"Now THAT'S scary!"
The two men smiled at each other across the couch.
"Geez, I wish I was really in the same room with you right now!" Al muttered. "So I could sock you for disappearing on us."
Sam smiled, recalling a similar sentiment he had felt...when? Well, apparently it wasn't important for this Leap or he would remember. "What am I here for, Al?"
Al poked at the handlink. "Well, let's see...your name is..."
"Jack Kemp, I know, and I've just become famous for saving the life of Ferne Marshall. May I ask why I Leaped in here after he saved her?"
"Because our friendly anonymous gunman is going to try again, and this time Mr. Kemp isn't on hand to save her. Huh! In fact the assassin apparently sets him up to look like an apprentice and he spends a couple of years in jail until new evidence turns up that proves his innocence."
"Great, so am I supposed to save her life againor just keep Jack from getting sent to prison for it?"
Al smiled, his eyes sharing some private joke with himself. "I think you'll definitely want to save her, although it would be better if you could find the assassin before he gets a chance to try again."
Chapter 7: Chance Encounter
Donna turned her head. A nurse was standing in the doorway.
"There's a visitor to see you, ma'am. A Mr. Jack Kemp."
"Do I know a Jack Kemp?"
"He's the paramedic who saved your life, ma'am."
"Oh!" Donna sat up and brushed a strand of unruly hair out of her eyes. "Please send him in."
The nurse nodded and disappeared. A moment later, a tall young man with dark hair entered the room. He bobbed his head meekly.
"Please, have a seat."
Jack Kemp pulled a chair up to her bedside and seated himself in it with a shy smile. Donna noticed that his hands were nervously wringing a California Angels baseball cap.
"Well, Mr. Kemp. It appears I owe you a thank you."
"Really, it was nothing."
She smiled. "I don't know about you, but almost losing my life is not 'nothing' to me. I want you to know I am very grateful. If there's anything I can do for you, Mr. Kemp, just let me know."
He laughed hesitantly. "Well, could you call me...Jack? 'Mr Kemp' reminds me too much of all those reporters out there."
Donna echoed his laughter. "I'm surprised they didn't try to follow you in!"
"They did, but fortunately you have a good press agent."
"I meant what I said, though, Jack. It wasn't nothing. It meant a great deal to me."
He nodded. "I wasn't trying to belittle it or anything, it's just that...well, it's my...job."
"That's right. I forgot you were a paramedic."
Jack smiled, bemused. "Something like that."
"And I'm something like an actress," she responded, her eyes twinkling. "Or at least that's what I've been told."
"What you've been told?"
Donna nodded, hoping she wasn't saying anything terribly out of character.
"It sounds like you don't have a lot of faith in your own abilities," he commented, concerned.
She laughed. "No, it's not that. I...just can't remember."
The young man's face furrowed in concentration. "You have amnesia?"
"Yes, and it's incredibly frustrating. But, I don't suppose you would have a lot of experience with this sort of thing."
"You'd be surprised."
"So would you," she retorted.
Jack shook his head in apparent amusement.
"What's so funny?"
"Deja vu," he replied with a lopsided grin. "I had a similar conversation once before...it was even in a hospital I think, but otherwise the circumstances were COMPLETELY different!"
"Mind if I ask how they were so different?"
He shook his head. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"Try me. I think I'd believe anything right about now."
For no apparent reason, their eyes met. Donna's breath caught in her throat.
I know him! The face was as foreign as the one in her mirror, and the dark eyes were those of a stranger, but something in those eyes was painfully familiar. In the back of her mind, a distant memory flickered. "If you look into my eyes, you'll see another soul." Someone had spoken those words to her long ago--someone she did not know at the time would become very important to her. Someone she had to find. With the desperation that can only be born of memory loss, she clung to the fragile phrase, but even this new key could not open the locked door.
"Is something wrong?" With those simple words the concerned voice severed the thin thread of memory.
"I was just trying to remember someone," she said faintly. "Someone I cared about. But I can't see their face...I don't know who they were or what relationship they were to me...There's nothing..." She stopped, unable to go on because of a combination of choking tears and a fear of revealing too much.
The concern on Jack's face didn't fade, but somehow a wide range of other emotions joined it, from a gentle sympathy to the same painful nostalgia that she felt. "I know the feeling," he whispered. "I...had that happen once...or twice."
"It's like," Donna continued, frustrated. "Like my mind has suddenly become a big piece of..."
"Swiss cheese," they concluded simultaneously.
Donna smiled softly. "It seems we think alike, Jack." She rolled over on her side and gazed thoughtfully out the window. "I hope you don't mind me dumping this all on you. It's just that...well...I feel comfortable with you. I feel like I know you already."
"It's fine. I'm enjoying talking to you."
"I hope I haven't gotten you all depressed."
"Not at all."
Donna turned once again to face Ferne Marshall's young rescuer. "Please don't take this the wrong way, Jack, but why did you come here? Why did you come to see me?"
"Well, I wanted to see how you were doing, and to be perfectly honest, Judy--my sister--asked what you were like. I figured I should have something to tell her."
The 'star' smiled. "I hope you like what you see. I can't risk my own rescuer spreading bad publicity about me," she joked.
"I also wanted to talk to you about what happened."
Uh, oh. How can I discuss an event I wasn't there for? she wondered. "If you don't mind, I don't want to talk about it," she excused herself quickly. "Besides..."
"Oh, yeah. The amnesia. I forgot."
Donna tried not to laugh at the accidental pun, or the sheepish expression on Jack's face.
He glanced at her with a confused frown. "What's so funny?"
"You forgot I have amnesia?" she queried him, eyes twinkling.
"Oh." He smiled lopsidedly. "I didn't realize I said that."
"What do you want to know, anyway?"
"Just if you knew why anyone would want to kill you, or who."
Donna shrugged. "I'm afraid not. Are you a detective in your spare time or something, Jack?"
"Occasionally. I just don't want to see you get hurt again, or worse."
She smiled. "Believe me, neither do I!"
At that moment, a nurse appeared in the doorway.
"Sorry to disturb you, Miss Marshall, but visiting hours are over."
Donna nodded. "Thank you."
Jack stood somewhat reluctantly. "Well, it was good to meet you officially, Miss Marshall."
"Please call me Ferne."
Jack nodded and turned toward the door.
"Oh, and Jack?"
He turned in the doorway and glanced back at her.
"If you can, please do come see me again."
He smiled and donned the cap that had been keeping his hands busy. "I will."
Shortly after he had left, Beth reappeared, this time wearing an oversized black, long-sleeved shirt with colorful letters all over it and a pair of red stretch pants and red patent-leather shoes.
Donna's eyes widened. "Where did you get that outfit?"
Beth smiled. "I swiped the shirt from my husband. I was in a rather strange mood."
"I can see that," the patient replied with a little smile.
"How are you doing?" she asked.
Donna shrugged. "Same as before, I guess. I suppose you know I had a visitor?"
The Observer looked surprised. "Really? Who?"
"Jack Kemp. He's the paramedic who saved the real Ferne's life the first time."
Beth nodded, seemingly trying to conceal a pleased smile. "What did you think of him?"
Donna was quiet for a moment, pondering the puzzle of emotions her visitor had brought on. "I felt like...like I already knew him, like...if we ordered burgers together, I could pick out all his favorite toppings without having to ask." There was another faint twinge of familiarity, but it vanished before she could catch more than a glimpse. Neither of them spoke for a while. Donna's thoughts were wandering and Beth knew better than to interrupt.
"Do I know him, Beth?"
Beth glanced at her, startled. "Do you know who?"
"Do I know Jack Kemp, in my own time?"
"Why do you ask?"
"I..." She paused, not quite sure how to answer. "I...recognized him...sort of. Not his face, or anything like that...it was like I recognized his soul."
Beth considered for a moment before answering. "Well...no. You don't know Jack Kemp."
Chapter 8: Just Like Old Times
Al reappeared as Sam entered the hospital elevator. By this time, the uniform he wore on the rare occasions when he was in a serious mood had given way to a delightfully colorful outfit, one that Sam didn't recognize. He was wearing a metallic-gold shirt with a purple pinstripe coat and matching pants, a metallic-gold and black leopard-print vest, a bolo tie with a purple stone set in it around his neck, silver shoes, a silver belt and a large gold pin in the shape of a question mark on the lapel of his coat.
"New outfit?" Sam asked.
"Well, maybe to you I guess. Beth got it for me for my birthday. The crazy thing is, she managed to find it in miniature too, for Samantha." He grinned.
"I'm surprised Beth lets you get away with that kind of wardrobe, let alone supporting you in it," the Leaper replied with a smile.
"Let alone encouraging the younger generation to inherit my bad habit, huh?" Al's eyes twinkled, the old mischief and merriment back in full force, much to Sam's relief. Al stuck another cigar in his mouth and inhaled deeply.
"Al, if you have kids now, you really should stop smoking. Second hand smoke--"
"Sam, you know better than to act like a doctor with me!" the hologram warned. "I tell Beth the same thing when she starts playing Nurse..."
Sam raised an eyebrow incredulously.
"Well, that kind of nurse," Al relented with a lecherous grin.
The physicist laughed. "Who are you trying to fool, Al? You haven't changed a bit!"
"OK, I confess. Let's just say I've...narrowed my focus."
"But what I was saying--"
"I know, Sam. I know about second hand smoke. D'you really think I would smoke around my girls? Besides." He waved the cigar at his friend. "This thing ain't even lighted."
"Then why are you carrying it around?"
Al shrugged. "I was afraid you wouldn't recognize me without it."
The elevator stopped at the lobby and Sam got out. Al stepped out right behind him, but not before two young nurses had walked right through the hologram.
"Geez, I hate it when they do that!" the Observer complained. "It's worse than having someone walk *past* you without noticing."
"You were saying something about narrowed focus, Al?" Sam commented wryly.
"Yeah, but I'm not forbidden to scan the periphery. There's a big difference between scanning and focus, y'know."
Sam strode calmly over to a pay phone and picked up the reciever. "No comment."
"You may not believe this, but Beth's as big a flirt as I am."
The Leaper regarded his friend skeptically.
"I'm serious!" Al insisted. "She didn't use to be, I admit, but she finally decided to fight fire with fire, and found out she enjoyed it. Neither of us have ever been unfaithful though."
For some reason, Sam felt a twinge of guilt at that statement. He leaned against the phone booth, puzzled. He wasn't even married, let alone unfaithful...was he?
"I think I've figured out why I'm here, Al," he said abruptly, changing the subject to pull his mind away from the uncomfortable uncertainties.
"What do you mean? I already told you what you're here for."
"I think I'm here to get Ferne Marshall and Jack Kemp together."
Al looked startled. "Where did you get that idea, all of a sudden?"
"From talking to her. I don't know...it just seems...right."
"Now, hold it, Sam! Just because you may be falling for her doesn't mean she's supposed to end up with this guy! Ferne Marshall is *engaged* to a Mr. Allan Gardener...of the Chicago Gardeners...!"
"So? I think she and Jack Kemp were meant to be together but never met because he was too shy to go visit her in the hospital."
Al shook his head. "You are an incurable romantic, just like..." Suddenly, he caught himself and quickly shut up.
"Just like who?"
"Uh, who...yeah. Um...Ziggy! Just like Ziggy. Not surprising, since you built--"
"Al." There was no response. "You're not talking about Ziggy. Who is it?"
"I can't tell you, Sam."
"Hey, it's your rule!"
Sam glared at him, but Al wouldn't budge and there was no way he could force him to.
"What makes you think I've fallen for her anyway?"
Al shrugged again, smiling to himself. "I know your type."
"Since when are red-haired movie stars my type?"
"I don't know, but I'm sure there are a few looking for Nobel prize winners out there. Besides, I wasn't talking about that. I meant her personality."
Sam's face was thoughtful, and Al knew they were getting into dangerous waters.
"I meant what I said, though, Sam--about her fiance!"
"Should I recognize the name?"
"Well, let's just say it was discovered in the eighties that the family business ain't door-to-door sales."
"They're a family of professional assassins, Sam! I wouldn't tangle with them!"
"Assassins...Al, that's great!"
"Get Ziggy to look them up...see if she can find out if they had any connections to someone who might want to kill Ferne Marshall, and where Allan was the night of the assassination attempt."
"Oh! I gotcha! That's a good idea!"
"Well, make it fast. When does the second attempt take place?"
Al poked at the handlink. "Uh, oh. It's tomorrow night!"
"She gets discharged from the hospital tonight, day after tomorrow her maid finds her body when she comes to work in the morning. There's no fingerprints...nothing. No one is ever caught."
"Except Jack Kemp gets charged with being an accomplice."
"That's about the size of it."
Chapter 9: Getting Acquainted
"How long have you been a paramedic, Jack?"
Jack Kemp sighed. "Almost five years. I wanted to be a doctor, but my family couldn't afford medical school."
"Couldn't you get any scholarships?"
He laughed curtly. "I tried. It turned out that my GPA was one point too low for a scholarship at the school I wanted to go to."
"Why didn't you just go to another school?"
"Because even with a full scholarship I couldn't afford to pay for both rent and textbooks. The place I wanted to go, I could have lived at home...saved a bundle."
"The worst part about it is sometimes I feel so helpless."
"Helpless? You save people's lives, Jack."
"I know. It's just..when I see the ones whose lives are saved, too many times they're so broken and scarred they wish they had died. Or even if they don't...I just wish I could have done more."
"Well, at least you can do something. You have to remember, my profession may have a lot of glamor, but it's not known for giving you a whole lot of purpose."
"You sound pretty disillusioned."
Ferne glanced down at the strange garment she was wearing, the simplest thing she'd worn in a long time. "Disillusioned doesn't even begin to cover it. Sometimes...this is awful, but sometimes I wish the gunman had succeeded. There are days when I would do anything to get away from it. The only thing that keeps me sane is that I love acting."
With a sad, but accepting smile, Jack reached out a hand to the reluctant star. She took it gratefully.
"If there's anything I can ever do to help, just let me know."
Ferne smiled sadly. "I don't need anything right now. You wouldn't believe how nice it is to be away from all the crowds. I kind of hope we have to stay here for a while."
"I guess that wouldn't be so bad," Jack agreed with a smile.
Chapter 10: Allen
Donna sighed. "Well, now that I'm getting out of here, I might be able to do you some good," she told the redhead in the mirror. "I just hope I don't ruin your career in the process." There was a thoughtful pause. "Unless you want me to."
"Unless I want you to do what?"
She turned, startled. A tall, handsome, muscular man with sun-bleached blond hair and pale blue eyes set in a deeply tanned face, was standing in the doorway. "I can think of a lot of things I'd like you to do," he continued, "but not in a hospital."
Donna was at a loss. This man obviously knew her, or Ferne rather, but she had no idea who he was and Beth was not there to help her. Besides that, for some reason she didn't trust him.
The man strode quickly over to her, his sharp eyes easily detecting her discomfort.
"Is something wrong, Ferne?"
Not knowing what to say, Ferne's temporary temporal replacement decided to say nothing.
Her companion sighed. "They told me you had amnesia, but I thought surely you'd remember me...remember *us*."
Well, that helped. Apparently this was Ferne's boyfriend--or fiance, rather, according to the large diamond engagement ring the nurse had 'returned' to her--and he'd been told about her 'amnesia'.
Suddenly, he grasped the startled Leaper's arms. "Maybe this'll help you remember." He kissed her firmly and agressively. Revolted, Donna instintively pushed him away.
"Don't ever do that again!" she warned him. "Ferne Marshall may have liked it, but..." She caught herself quickly and shut up.
"What are you talking about? This is me: Allan."
Donna didn't respond, but took a few steps away from him.
Allen's eyes darkened with anger. "I thought we had an agreement. I get you out of that spotlight you're always complaining about and you share some of that nice fortune of yours with me."
"Yeah, well I changed my mind."
With a few long strides, Allan closed the distance between them and slapped Donna hard across the face. "You'd better change it back fast, Doll."
"Leave this room."
"What are you saying?" he snarled.
"I'm saying it's over, Allan." She took the engagement ring of and dropped it carelessly to the floor. "Now get out of here before I have you escorted out!"
Allan started to protest, but thought better of it.
Probably because of those hired thugs of mine outside the door, Donna thought wryly to herself.
"You're going to regret this," he muttered, snatched up the ring and strode purposefully out of the room.
"I'll keep that in mind," she commented to his receding back.
With a sigh, she turned back to the mirror, straightened her collar, brushed a lock of hair out of her eyes, picked up the suitcase sitting on the floor at her feet, and left the hospital room. She was met by four wary bodyguards.
Chapter 11: Questions and Answers
"What the hell are those two doing? You told me in the original history Ferne was killed a week from today. Now you say it's tomorrow!"
"Dr. Elise has just ended the relationship between Ferne Marshall and Allan Gardener," the computer replied with smug satisfaction.
"Would you stay engaged to someone who admitted he only wanted to marry you for your money?"
"Is that what happened?"
"Yes, Admiral. Surely Dr. Beckett would have done the same thing in such a position."
"Well, that would be nice if her wish to save Ferne Marshall from a loveless marriage hadn't increased her chances of getting killed!"
"The probability of Dr. Elise being killed has not increased any. Only the date has changed."
"Well it's changed to a *sooner* date, and in my opinion, that raises the probability!"
Behind him, the Imaging Chamber door hissed open. With a sigh, Al turned to face his wife. "How's she doing?"
"About as well as can be expected. A little upset."
"Yeah, finding out I might die tomorrow would get me a little upset too. Didn't it occur to her that changing history could have some negative consequences too?"
"Al, that's not fair."
Al sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. His bleak mood contrasted sharply with his outfit, which was the same one he had met with Sam in. "I'm sorry, Beth. This is just really getting to me."
Beth smiled gently at her husband and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Tonight, if everything's going well, do you want to...take a break?"
With one eyebrow raised, Al put his arms around his wife's waist. "My kind of break?"
Beth kissed him. "Of course," she whispered.
Al smiled. "I think I can handle that!"
"Would you like me to leave the room?" Ziggy commented, amused.
The Calaviccis both grinned. "Nice try, Ziggy. But I think *we'll* do the leaving...later."
Ziggy sighed with what sounded like disappointment. "Very well, Admiral."
"I'm going to tell her, Al." Beth's unexpected comment brought Al back to the present.
"Tell who what?" he asked warily.
"I'm going to tell Donna about Sam. I have to."
"You haven't seen her, Al! It's killing her that she can't remember the most important person in her life, especially since all she *can* remember is how important he is!"
"Beth, I would have told you this before you guys pulled this crazy stunt, if you had bothered to ask me. After this Leap, chances are they'll be separated again. Don't you think it will be a lot harder on both of them to be separated after finally finding each other than to just go on not knowing?"
"So we just let them pass each other like a couple of ships in the night?"
"But what if they touch? What if they find out on their own?"
Al looked deeply into his wife's eyes, where he saw his own concern for their friends mirrored. He sighed deeply with the world-weariness of a man who has been forced to watch helplessly from the sidelines as his best friend faced danger and heartache one too many times.
"Then I will consider that a sign from God, Time, Fate or WHOEVER...that he's finally ready to let Sam come home."
Upon Donna and Beth's arrival at Ferne's house, the housekeeper's four-year-old daughter had demanded to know who the two new ladies were, much to her mother's surprise and confusion. Beth had quickly told the little girl that she was Ferne's guardian angel, so none of the grown-ups could see her, and that 'Ferne' had changed her appearance to be save from the bad man, which is why everyone else pretended she looked the same. Donna envied Beth's blissful anonymity of being invisible to almost everyone. One little girl was much easier to handle than the myriad of other people waiting to greet Ferne Marshall at her home. After several hours, she finally managed to disentangle herself from the mob of reporters, bodyguards, servants and fans trying to claim her attention, and slipped away to Ferne's bedroom to talk with Beth, who had been watching the scene with detatched amusement.
"What's the latest scoop?" she asked, sitting on the edge of the bed.
"Well, according to Ziggy, Ferne still gets killed tomorrow night. She says there's an eighty-one percent chance that Allan is the assassin, which is why your breaking up with him seems to have speeded things up."
Donna sighed. "Great. Why couldn't she have told me that before I did it?"
Beth smiled ironically. "Because she didn't know it was him until you changed history."
"Well, that does me a lot of good."
"Because you'll be better prepared than Ferne was."
Donna fell back on the bed with a little sigh. "Even if I'm prepared, can I do anything to defend myself?"
"You have a black belt in Tae Kwan Do."
The Leaper sat up again, startled. "I do?"
The Observer smiled. "Trust me, Donna. We don't have damsels in distress in this business. If you couldn't take care of yourself, you wouldn't be here."
Donna pondered for a moment. "There's something I just don't understand. First of all, why would Gardener have tried to kill Ferne at the premiere, when she had no intention of breaking up with him, and why would the fact that I did end their relationship cause him to try again sooner?"
"Crime of Passion?" Beth suggested.
"Or..." Donna's mind reviewed what she could remember of her conversation with Gardener in the hospital. "What if he intended to kill her from the beginning...?" She snapped her fingers. "Beth, tell Ziggy to find Ferne's will. Who inherits her fortune if she dies?"
Beth obligingly poked at the handlink.
"You see," Donna explained. "Gardener said he had made an agreement with Ferne. If she would give him access to her money, he would get her out of the spotlight. What if he persuaded her to write him into his will..."
Understanding dawned on Beth's face. "Then if she died, he would inherit everything. And the fact that you broke up with him meant he had to kill you before you could change the will and cut him out."
The Observer quickly read the small screen of the handlink. "You're right. Allan Gardener inherited everything. Two years later he married and moved to Acapulco with his wife. They haven't been heard from since. Ferne hanged the will a couple of days before the first assassination attempt."
"And he's even keeping up his end of the bargain," Donna commented wryly. "What better way to escape the pressures of fame than to die?"
Chapter 12: Suspicions
"Kid, psycho fans take shots at their favorite stars all the time."
"This wasn't a fan," Sam insisted.
The policeman regarded him skeptically. "You wan't me to believe it was her fiancee? C'mon, surely you can come up with something better than that."
"Look, all I'm asking you to do is check it out. He had the opportunity--"
"Can you give me a motive?"
Sam tried not to look stumped. "Well, I..."
The officer nodded. "That's what I thought." He started to turn away.
Behind Sam, the Imaging Chamber Door hissed open. "Sam! Ziggy says there's a ninety-eight percent chance Ferne Marshall was planning to cut Gardener out of her will the day she died!"
Sam jumped on the news. "She was going to disinherit him."
The officer turned back to him, his face curious.
Sam glanced quickly to Al who read off the information rapidly scrolling by on the handlink.
"Ferne Marshall changed her will to leave everything to Gardener two days before the first assassination attempt. Yesterday, when he came to visit her at the hospital, she broke up with him, and she was planning to change her will again to cut him out the day she was killed."
Sam repeated the information to the policeman, who stared at him incredulously.
"I mean...she's planning to change her will again, and he's going to kill her to stop it!"
"And how do you know this? You some sort of psychic?"
"No, no...Look. If you had just tried to kill your fiancee and suddenly out of the blue she broke up with you, wouldn't you be a little worried that she suspected you?"
"I still think you're grasping at straws, son. It's an interesting theory, but stuff like that only happens in the movies."
"It's not working, Sam," Al stated uneccesarily, staring at the handlink.
"I know that!" Sam muttered under his breath.
"What was that?" the officer asked.
"Nothing, Nothing. It wouldn't hurt to check the possibility, would it?"
"Oh, I don't know. Trespassing, illegal search and seizure--"
Sam sighed impatiently. "Look, just forget it!" Without waiting to hear more, he stormed out of the station.
The officer behind the desk watched him go. "Tommy?"
A younger officer standing at a filing cabinet turned. "Yes, chief?"
"Keep an eye on that young man that just left, there. He's acting real suspicious."
Outside, Sam turned to Al. "Well, so much for the police. What made you think to look up that stuff about the will, anyway?"
Al shrugged vaguely. "It's always a good motive for murder on TV."
Sam studied his friend thoughtfully. "There's something you're not telling me, Al."
"What makes you say that?"
"The fact that I've never seen you so evasive since my first Leap."
"How am I being evasive?"
"Catching yourself in the middle of a sentence and telling an obvious lie to cover for the slip, coming to me with informatio I never asked for, then not telling how you got it, trying to keep me away from Ferne Marshall even though I'm supposed to be saving her life--"
"Hey, who says I'm trying to keep you away from her?"
"You assumed I was falling for her because she was my type without ever having seen her and then changed the subject when I started to wonder why. Plus you tried to discourage me when I talked about getting her and Jack together--"
"I already told you the reason for that! I didn't want you being crazy enough to get her fiancee mad at you!"
"But she was already going to break up with him."
"Well, I didn't know that at the time!"
Al looked uncomfortable. "I hadn't asked."
"I don't understand. You've been volunteering information that normally I would have to ask you to find out, and you don't know about vital things, that I assume Ziggy would tell you on his own, until after they've happened. It's almost as if..." Sam paused thoughtfully.
"C'mon, Sam, we've got to--"
"There's someone else changing history here, isn't there? Is Alia here?"
"No! Alia's not here and Zoe's not either! Now will you come off it and worry about saving Ferne Marshall?! Unless you don't want to Leap."
"Look, Sam, I can't tell you, so just forget about it, okay?"
"Then there is someone--"
"I told you, Sam. I can't tell you." Al poked the flourescent squares of the handlink and the bright light of the open Imaging Chamber door appeared behind him. "I'm sorry."
He stepped through the door and was gone, leaving Sam alone with the mystery.
Chapter 13: Phone Calls
"Chief, this is Tommy."
"Tommy, hi. Have you been keeping an eye on that young Mr. Kemp like I told you to?"
"Did he say or do anything suspicious?"
"I don't know about suspicious, but he was acting pretty strange."
"Well, he stopped right outside the precinct and started talking to himself. It wasn't like thinking out loud talking either. He seemed to be having a conversation with an imaginary friend or something."
"Did you hear what he said?"
"He mentioned someone named Ziggy, said someone was trying to keep him away from Miss Marshall, and mentioned something about changing history. That's all I caught."
"All right. I'm going to call Ferne Marshall and ask her if she knows this guy. You stick with him, okay?"
"All right. Talk to you later."
"Mr. Baldwin? This is Ferne Marshall."
"Ferne, baby! Good to hear from you! How many times to I have to tell you, call me Greg."
Donna smiled. "Well...Greg. I was wondering if I could make an appointment with you."
"Sure. I can squeeze you in first thing tomorrow morning. What's on your mind?"
"I suppose you heard that Allan Gardener and I have broken our engagement."
"Yeah, it's the latest buzz. I'm real sorry. You two made a real groovy couple."
"Well, I'm not sorry. Anyway, I feel that since Allan and I are no longer going to be getting married, it wouldn't be fitting to have him as my only heir, especially with what's been happening lately."
"I see what you mean. I'd be happy to talk to you about it. Ten AM sound okay?"
Donna hesitated for a moment, wondering if that would be soon enough. "Yes, I guess that would do."
"All right. I'll see you then, babe."
"Very Well. Goodbye."
Donna hung up the phone with a little sigh. Did all celebrity lawyers seem to think they were celebrities too, or was she just lucky?
Suddenly the phone rang. Hoping it was neither Gardener nor Baldwin, Donna picked it up. Who would have Ferne's private number? "Hello?"
"Miss Marshall? This is Chief Harris, of the police. I was wondering if you know a Mr. Jack Kemp?"
Donna laughed. "You must not read the papers, Chief. He's the man who saved my life."
"Yes, ma'am, but I didn't know if you had actually met him."
"Why, yes I did. He came to visit me in the hospital."
"He was in here today, ranting about you getting killed tomorrow night. I just wanted to know if you felt he was trustworthy."
Donna felt a strange chill. How could anyone else know about that? "Yes, he struck me as a very honest man."
"Have you any plans to remove your former fiancee from your will?"
She was stunned. "Yes."
"Did you tell Mr. Kemp that you were going to do this?"
"No, I just decided to do it a few minutes ago."
There was an eerie silence on the other end of the line.
"Well, I'll be...If that kid ain't a bloomin' psychic..."
"Is something wrong, Chief?"
"We hope not, Miss Marshall. When you saw him, did he...talk to himself or anything?"
"No imaginary friend or anything like that?"
"No. I'm sure I would have noticed something like that." She thought briefly of Beth.
"You can't think of any reason we should keep an eye on him?"
"No, I can't."
"Well, sorry to trouble you. Thanks for your time."
"Thank you for calling."
"Oh, and one more thing..."
"Do you know anyone named Ziggy?"
Chapter 14: Progress Report
"Well, with any luck, we'll be getting you two out of here by tomorrow night," the Admiral announced, striding into the Waiting Room with Beth close behind him.
Jack glanced up from the anatomy book Al had loaned him from Sam's office. "What do you mean?"
"You've figured out who tried to kill me?" Ferne guessed.
"Basically, yes. Now all our people have to do is keep him from trying again."
"Can't they go to the police?" Jack asked.
Beth shook her head. "I'm afraid we've already tried that. Without being able to explain where they got their information, the police don't believe them."
Ferne stared at the couple in shock. "Why not?"
"Well," Beth responded. "I'm afraid we've got a rather unlikely suspect, at least in their view."
"Why? Who is it?"
"Allan?" Ferne gasped.
Jack frowned. "Isn't he your fiancee?"
She nodded, her face dark. "That money-grubbing son of a bitch--No wonder he was so eager for me to write him into my will!"
"Then you're not surprised."
Ferne sighed. "Not really. As you probably already know, the only reason he wanted to marry me was my money. But, he promised to get me out of the spotlight..." She glanced at Jack and shrugged. "I told you I was desperate."
"Well, apparently he was going to get you out of it in a way that would insure you stayed out."
The actress shuddered. "And to think if I hadn't come here I probably would have let him, even if I had known."
Jack took her hand and squeezed it.
Admiral Calavicci, who certainly didn't look like an Admiral in his gold and purple ensemble, grinned knowingly at the two. "Well, it looks like you're going to end up saving her life again, Jack."
The young paramedic looked startled. "I am?"
"You'll figure it out." He turned to leave.
"Al..." Beth stopped him with an unspoken reminder.
"Oh, yeah. I guess I should tell you--you guys probably won't remember any of this when you get back."
Ferne frowned. "Why not?"
"Well...remember when you first got here, how you didn't recognize each other until you touched?"
Both of the visitors nodded.
"It has something to do with that, but I can't tell you what."
"You know...when I was really little, I used to watch Captain Galaxy on TV. It ended when I was seven, but I remember the last episode. Captain Galaxy was reading the last of his fan letters...from some kid in the Midwest somewhere. I remembered it for two reasons, because I thought the question sounded way to smart for a kid--I didn't even undertand the answer--and because that's when I found out Captain Galaxy really believed time travel was possible." He shook his head. "Now why I should be thinking of that now, I have no idea."
Al grinned. "Little Sam Beckett from Elk Ridge, Indiana..." he chuckled.
Jack glanced up, startled. "Sir, forgive me for saying this, but...wouldn't you have been a little old to be interested in Captain Galaxy?"
"Let's just say, if you ever hear of a Sam Beckett, remember that. Oh...and thank him too."
Chapter 15: Countdown
Grumpily, Donna rolled over in bed. "Guway," she muttered.
"Donna, wake up! We've got a problem."
With a sigh, she fumbled for the light switch, blinking against the sudden brightness. "Beth? What are you doing here so late?"
"Like I said, we've got a problem. Do you remember that phone call you made to Ferne's attorney?"
"Well, when we told Ferne what was going on. she suspected Allan might have the phones bugged..."
"So you're saying--"
There was the sound of a door slamming downstairs.
"He's coming tonight," Beth confirmed grimly.
Donna bit back a curse and rolled out of bed, turning off the light as she did so. She crouched beside the bed.
"You should have left the light on. You won't be able to see him in this."
"Yes, but he won't be able to see me either, and he's got a gun if I remember correctly."
There was the sound of a doorknob turning.
"I can't believe no one else hears that!" Donna whispered incredulously. "Ferne must hire heavy sleepers! Either that or they're in on it, or drugged!"
"I'm going for help."
"How can you?"
"Donna, just trust me."
There was the brief squeal of the handlink, then Donna knew she was alone.
"Al! Get Sam over to Ferne's house NOW!"
"But, Beth, if I do that he's sure to guess--"
"I don't care! Gardener is there *now*! I think Donna's life is a little more important than whether she and Sam know about each other."
Al nodded. "You're right. But you'd better come with me."
"But you were saying about Sam--"
"Sam can't see you unless I'm touching you, and for once in my life, I promise not to. That way you can pop in and out to keep an eye on Donna and I can stay with Sam to make sure he gets there in time.
Beth nodded. "All right."
"Sam! Boy, am I glad you're up!"
Sam glanced up from the newspaper he had been reading. "I couldn't sleep. What are you doing here this late?"
"We've got to get over to Ferne's house, NOW!"
Sam's brow furrowed in puzzlement. "I thought you said she was supposed to get killed tomorrow."
"Well, now Ziggy's saying tonight, and unless you get over there, Miss Marshall may not survive the night!"
Sam was quickly donning Jack's jacket. "May not?"
"Well, it may depend on whether or not Allan Gardener knows Tae Kwan Do."
"Why should that make any difference this time? It never made it harder for Ziggy to calculate the odds before."
"I'm not talking about you."
"SAM! We don't have time for a bunch of questions!"
"All right! I'm leaving."
"Ferne, don't try to hide from me. I know you're in here." As her eyes adjusted once again to the darkness, Donna began to make out Allan's shape in the room.
"How did you get in?" she demanded, wishing that she had a talent for ventriloquism.
"You gave me the security code, don't you remember, 'darling'? Besides, this is going to me my house soon."
"Over my dead body!"
Allan laughed softly. "Exactly."
"You're not going to get away with this, Allan. Greg Baldwin knows I was planning to take you out of my will. He'll figure it out!"
"That's a risk I'll have to take. I know I should've got you before you made that unfortunate phone call, but I didn't expect you to make it so soon. Well, Daddy used to say, it's almost always carelessness that gets you caught."
Donna groped for a weapon, but the dark floor was frustratingly bare. "I promise you, I won't give in without a fight!"
Allan laughed. "Good! I was afraid you'd plead for your life. This will be much more fun."
He was standing directly on the other side of the bed from her. Donna flattened herself against the floor and rolled carefully under the bed. She fixed her eyes on the black leather shoes directly across from her line of sight. If she could somehow get him to fall long enough for her to get out of the room...
With trembling fingers, she reached out and pulled gently on one of his shoelaces. It came untied easily, without any indication from Allan that he had felt anything. Slowly, being careful not to brush her hand against his leg, she untied the other shoe.
I never thought a grade school prank would be so useful, she reflected ironically, amused despite the tension. She fought to keep her fingers steady as she carefully tied the laces of the two shoes together.
Well, here goes nothing. Quietly and carefully, she rolled out from under the bed once again. A slight glimmer of moonlight was visible through the open bathroom door behind her.
"Ferne, you know I"m going to find you. Why don't you just make it easier on yourself and come out?"
"Not a chance," she muttered. Taking a deep breath, she lunged for the bathroom. The movement caught the assassin's attention and he started to run towards her, only to be felled by his own shoes. He fired. The bullet imbedded it self in the door, just as Donna slammed it shut behind herself. Her heart racing, she locked the door and flipped on the light switch to look frantically around herself for a weapon or escape. The window was covered with iron bars to keep people out. Unfortunately, they were also keeping her in.
On the other side of the door, she could hear her would-be killer struggling with his shoes. Soon he would be coming for her again, and he still had his gun, to shoot first the lock, and then her. Her eyes fell on a pair of hair scissors.
Startled, Donna whirled to see Beth standing behind her. "Where did you go?" she demanded.
"Jack's on his way."
"What? But how? He can't see--"
"Look, just try to hold him off for a few more minutes. Jack'll be here soon, I promise."
Their eyes met. Donna desperately wanted to ask Beth about the things the police chief had told her, but knew this was NOT the time.
"Do you think you can?" Beth asked.
Donna nodded and picked up the scissors. "No damsels in distress, remember?"
Beth smiled. "I'll be right back."
"I have to, Donna! I promise, I'll be back."
With a few quick taps on the handlink, she was gone again.
Sam spun the steering wheel, causing the car to make an abrupt turn. Horns blared all around him.
"Go check on Ferne!" he barked at Al, his eyes focused grimly on the road ahead of him.
"Are you kidding? And risk you getting lost before you get to her?"
"Al, for all I know, she may already be dead!"
"No, she's fine. Scared, but fine." He chuckled, much to Sam's amazement. "She tied his shoelaces together!"
"Al, that doesn't stop a gun!"
"No, but it gave her time to get out of the room. She's trapped in the bathroom, but I think she can hold him off for a while. At least until you get there."
"How do you know all this?" Sam asked, turning to Al.
Suddenly, the car veered into oncoming traffic. "SAM! Pay attention! Ask questions later!"
Back in his own lane, Sam nodded. "Okay, just one thing."
"Give me anything you've got on my chances of actually stopping this guy."
"You're not going to chicken out if they're bad, are you?" Al asked incredulously.
"No, I just want to know what I'm up against."
Al poked at the handlink. "Fifty-fifty."
Sam frowned. "Are you sure?"
"I don't understand. Ziggy's usually a lot more specific."
"Yeah, well this has been a rather...volatile Leap. Here's her street!"
Once again Sam pulled a sharp turn. "How's she doing now?"
There was a sharp blast as a bullet ripped through the lock on the bathroom door. Donna pulled back instinctively. The door crept open and she backed away from the opening. The gun entered first, followed by Allan's hands. As soon as she could see the hand holding the gun, Donna plunged the scissors into the back of it.
Allan howled, dropping the gun. She doeve for it, but he quickly kicked it out of her reach and lurched in the same direction. Seizing the opportunity, she bolted through the open door, through the bedroom and out onto the landing. Beth suddenly appeared beside her.
"I wish you wouldn't do that!" Donna scolded in a whisper. "I'm scared enough as it is!"
"Ferne!" Allan's voice roared behind her. She whirled abruptly.
He was standing in the doorway, the hand she had stabbed wrapped in a strip of cloth and held against his chest, the other pointing the gun at her head. His face was clouded with anger.
"Don't move, unless you want to die sooner."
Chapter 16: Moment of Truth
"Al! Get Sam in there, quickly!" Beth shouted to her husband as Sam pulled Jack's car up before Ferne's house.
Al swore. Sam glanced at him, startled.
"He's got her cornered!" The Admiral explained quickly.
The Leaper needed no further warning. He bolted out of the car and raced to the house. The door was open.
With a nod to each other, the two Observers centered on Donna.
* * * *
Beth reappeared beside Donna, her breath as short as if she had just been running. "He's coming."
Downstairs, the front door slammed.
"Ferne!" a voice called urgently.
Allan looked up, startled. It was all Donna needed. With a skilled reflex that surprised her, she kicked the gun out of his hand and it landed on the stairs.
"Up here!" she called as loud as she could, not knowing she spoke simultaneously with Al.
"She's up here, Sam!" Al repeated, still unheard by the combatants on the landing.
Allan lunged for Donna, but she ducked out of his path. Unfortunately, he landed instead next to his gun, which he immediately picked up. He glanced for a moment from his target to the sillhouetted form making his way towards them downstairs. He waved the gun in Donna's direction.
"I'll be back for you!" he threatened, backing slowly and silently down the stairs. At the foot, he turned and ducked under the staircase, moments before Sam reached it.
"Ferne, are you all right?" Sam asked, hurrying towards her.
"Jack! Behind you!" Donna screamed, as Allan left his hiding place and charged toward the man on the stairs, his gun leveled at 'Jack's' head.
Sam reacted instincitively. He spun, his hands flying out in a deft movement that caught Allan in the throat. In a few short, blurred moments, Allan lay on the floor at the foot of the stairs and Sam was picking up his gun.
The assassin raised his head weakly and started to get up, but Sam leveled the gun at him and cocked it back.
"Don't move," he said evenly. The Leaper glanced back up to the landing, where 'Ferne' was still standing, one hand resting lightly on her chest. "Are you all right?"
Donna nodded breathlessly. At that moment, the housekeeper burst in.
"Are you all right Miss Marshall? I heard a noise--" Her eyes drifted to where Sam was still holding the gun on Allan. "Dios Mio! What happened?"
"I'll explain later. Is your phone working?"
The older woman nodded, mute with astonishment.
"Then could you go call the police, please? Ask them to come and pick up Allan?"
Nodding again, she turned and shuffled out.
It seemed forever before the police came and took Allan into custody. They questioned both Sam and Donna on what had happened. Sam had the hardest job--explaining what had possessed him to come to Ferne Marshall's house in the middle of the night--but with Al's help he provided an acceptable story. What it boiled down to was that he couldn't sleep and went for a drive, somehow ending up on Ferne's street, and decided to investigate when he saw the front door of her house suspiciously standing open. Donna hedged a few questions about Ferne's relationship with Allan, with Beth supplying all the details she didn't know. Finally, the inquiry was finished and the police departed with Gardener in custody.
"I guess I should get back to the hotel," Sam decided reluctantly, after everyone else but Donna had either left or gone back to bed.
"Please don't go, Jack."
Sam turned back to Donna.
"You don't have to stay very long," she continued. "I just don't want to be alone right now."
Sam nodded. "All right."
"How did you know, Jack?"
"That Allan was the one who'd tried to kill me. That he was going to try again tonight?"
Sam started to offer the same explanation he'd given the police, but Donna held up a hand to cut him off.
"Don't lie to me Jack, please?"
Sam was silent, not sure of what to say.
"Chief Harris called me yesterday. He told me you came in and asked them to investigate Allan. That you even knew I was planning to take him out of my will, even though I hadn't told anyone. How did you know?"
Al and Beth exchanged a worried glance.
"I...I can't tell you, Ferne."
Frustrated, Donna drove her fist into one of the cushions on the couch in Ferne's spacious living room.
"Donna, don't--" Beth began.
"Why?" she demanded of both of them. There was no response.
With a sigh, Donna dismissed her suspicions as wishful thinking, not even knowing why it seemed so important to know. "I'm sorry, Jack."
"Well, I for one am just glad this whole mess is over with," Beth changed the subject.
Donna smiled sadly. "Yeah, me too."
At the same time, Al chimed in with "You can say that again."
Sam glanced from Donna to Al, startled. "What did you say?"
Al, realizing his mistake, was silent. Not knowing Al was even in the room, Donna assumed the question was directed at her.
"Um...that's two. That's two times you've saved my life."
"Nice catch," Beth commented.
Sam smiled. "Yeah, I guess it is."
It took Donna a few surprised seconds to realize he was responding to what SHE had said.
"How can I thank you enough?"
"You don't have to. Just getting to know you has been thanks enough."
Is this always what it's like? Donna wondered bitterly. Falling in love with someone who loves the person he thinks you are? Having to give him up to someone who doesn't even know him?
I'm going to lose her too, Sam realized. Just like Diane, Tamlyn, Alia, Dana... There was someone else too, someone whose name he couldn't quite reach... Why does it always have to be like this?
"Jack, I..." Donna began hesitantly.
Without either of them really knowing how it happened, they kissed--their eyes closed before their lips touched. A strange, electric excitement ran through both of them, reminding Sam of what it had been like the first time he touched Alia, but more intense, as if coupled with what he had always felt when he kissed--
Donna! For the first time since he had Leaped to save Al in 1945, memories of his wife flooded into Sam's mind. Horrified, he pulled away from the kiss.
Startled, Donna's eyes flew open, and the sight brought back everything she had been hunting for.
"Sam..." she whispered, tears of joy running down her face. "Oh my God--Sam!"
Chapter 17: Reunion
At the sound of his name, Sam's head came up and he stared at her in partial disbelief.
His wife threw herself into his arms.
"When you didn't come back...I was so scared," she sobbed. "I thought I might have lost you forever. I would have done anything to find you..."
Sam held her tightly, not realizing until that moment how much he had missed her. Al and Beth, standing together not far from the reunited couple, smiled at each other.
"It's your sign, Al," Beth said softly.
Hearing her friend's voice, Donna turned her head towards the Observers. "Beth? Who...?"
Sam looked at Al, putting the final piece in the puzzle with Donna's comment.
Still smiling, the Calaviccis took each other by the hand. Instantly, each became visible to both Leapers.
"It's good to see you again, Al," Donna told him with a smile as her memory of him returned.
"Good to be seen," he replied gruffly. Beth conveyed the response to Donna since she still couldn't hear the other hologram.
"You remember Beth," Al remarked to Sam.
"Not as well as I should probably," he confessed. "The last thing I remember is telling her you were coming home from Vietnam. I'm sure it'll come back eventually, though."
Donna frowned, another mystery unraveling. "You told Beth that Al was coming home?"
Sam, Al and Beth all nodded.
"That's what we never told anyone at the Project," Beth explained softly. "Do you remember on Sam's last Leap before we lost him? How Al fainted when he saw me, and when he recovered, insisted that Sam was in 1969?"
Donna nodded slowly.
"Well, that's because, for him, until that moment...I had left him before he came back from the war." Tears filled her eyes. "I had him declared dead and remarried."
Al put an arm around his wife's shoulders.
"I'm sorry, Beth...I didn't know," Donna replied sincerely, glad that Al was there.
Sam's face was thoughtful. "I'm trying to remember the rest of that Leap. I...was myself...even though it was the exact day I was born. So strange. The bartender...he told me I was controlling my own Leaps--I didn't believe him...I'm not sure I do now either. He told me I could go wherever, whenever I wanted to from there, even home." His face became pained. "I was going to, but I knew I had to do that for you first, Al. You've given up so much for me, and I've been so selfish. And when I saw the look on Beth's face when I told her..."
Beth smiled softly.
"I knew there were so many more people I could help. Even if he was right and I could control the Leaps myself--especially then--I felt I was being selfish to want to go home." He embraced Donna tightly. "If I had only known..." His eyes then fixed on Beth and Al. "Why didn't you tell us we were both here?"
Al smiled. "You had to find out on your own."
"What happens to Jack and Ferne?"
"Let's see...she quits the film industry, but uses some of the money she earned to pay his way through medical school. When he gets out, they get married and move to Montana, where they live on a ranch and raise horses. He works as a doctor and she teaches drama at a local high school. She starts going by her middle name, Allison, and apparently no one ever realizes that Allison Kemp used to be Ferne Marshall. They have three kids and a dog named.." Here Al laughed. "A dog named Ziggy! I guess they remembered something after all!"
"So I was right. They do belong together."
"Yeah, though for a while there it looked like you thought YOU belonged with her," Al retorted with a smile.
A wave of guilt swept over Sam with the memory of other Leaps. "Donna, I am so sorry! I--I don't even want to say it out loud! How could I hurt you like that?" His face was anguished.
She was pensive for a few moments. "I can't lie to you, Sam. I tried to protect you from it last time because you'd only been back for a little while, but I never got the chance to tell you the truth. I won't take that chance again." She sighed. "Yes, it hurt. It hurt pretty badly. But I forgave you a long time ago because I love you, and knew you would never have done it if you'd known about me. Besides, if you hadn't been Jack, I might have done the same thing." She smiled sadly at him. "Can you forgive yourself, Sam?"
"Do you want me to?"
"With all my heart. If you don't, will you ever be able to believe that I forgave you?"
Sam's only answer was to hold her tighter.
Al smiled. "Ready to come home, pal?"
Sam looked down into Donna's hopeful face. How could he have ever given her up, even for his Project? At the same time, how could he give up the chance to heal just one more hurt? Did he even have a choice?
"I...I don't know. If I keep Leaping--"
"NO!" Donna's voice was firm. "You're not going anywhere--not without me!"
Al grinned. "That goes for me too. What was the big idea of giving your Observer nothing to observe?"
"Hey, don't leave me out of the party," Beth interceded.
"Well?" Donna asked expectantly. Three pairs of eyes focused on Sam.
Sam nodded. "I love you, Donna," he replied earnestly. "I promise I will never leave you again."
"Can you keep that promise, Sam?" Al asked warily.
His friend nodded. "That much I know I can control. Are you sure you want to come along, Al? I don't want to take either of you away from your family--"
"In case you forgot, Sam," Beth spoke up, her words passed along by Al, "You two are as much a part of our family as the girls. Don't be surprised if they wan't to come along too."
"Is the Imaging Chamber big enough for that?"
Sam and Donna felt it at the same time--the sense of completion and release that signaled a coming Leap.
He took her hand. "As long as we're touching, we'll Leap together."
"Well, if that's the case..." With a mischievous smile, Donna kissed him again. Sam's arms went around his wife and held her to him in a tight embrace. They were still kissing when they Leaped...
"On the day I walked away
All the blue rolled into gray.
Now in the dark, alone I lay.
Should've stopped, but I could never, ever stay.
"Somewhere in the night,
Inside my dreams you burn so bright
And I am with you there and everything's all right.
Somewhere in the night,
Before the darkness turns to light,
Let me love you there,
Somewhere in the night."
from "Somewhere in the Night" by Scott Bakula
sung by Sam, "Piano Man"