Fandom: Quantum Leap
Note: previously published in zine
It's midnight, I'm sitting alone in the dark and I'm stone-cold sober.
I want a drink. No, correction, I need I drink.
But I don't drink. Not anymore. Because promised. Was made to promise. And it's a promise I've had to keep. I need my wits about me these days. Someone else's life depends on me.
But not tonight.
Ziggy reckons that all Sam has to do this Leap is baby-sit some kid through his finals. So Beaks told me to get some rest.
This morning Sammy-Jo's team announced that they think they can get Sam back. All these years of waiting. All the endless Leaps, feeling about as useful as a cracked glass. And tomorrow Sam could be back home.
Beaks doesn't want me there tomorrow.
Okay, so she hasn't come right out and said it. But what she doesn't say has always been the loudest, most opinionated thing about her.
No, that's not exactly fair. Beaks has a job to do, just like the rest of us. And maybe she's a damn sight better at it than many. And she doesn't want me there when they try to bring Sam back ...
We had a conversation once, in one timeline or another. I don't know if she remembers it. Time has been playing funny tricks for so long now. Anyway, Beaks wanted to know what I'd do if Sam ever came back. At the time I jumped down her throat for saying 'if' instead of 'when'. She took it all in her stride, giving me one of those looks of hers. And just repeated the question.
Then she asked another question, one that, if she'd been a man, I'd have slugged her for. She looked at me with that 'There's nothing about you I don't know so can the BS' look, and asked:
'And if we get Sam back will you tell him how you feel? Will you tell him how your feelings for him have changed? Will you tell him you love him?'
Of course I denied it. Hotly, aggressively, yelling what the hell did she think I was, some kind of faggot? Trying to fool someone who knows me inside out. Trying to fool myself.
I remember she suddenly sighed - a deep, heartfelt sigh. I suppose that even shrinks must get tired of banging their heads against brick walls. But she still asked me another question before I stormed out of her room. I remember every word as it it's engraved on my brain.
'Forget Donna for a moment. Forget the navy. Forget your prejudices and your institutionalised sense of 'morality'. If Sam was standing here, now, in the flesh, could you just go back to being 'buddies'? Could you spend every day beside him, telling yourself that the only love you feel for him is that of a friend? Answer 'yes' and I'll call you a liar and a coward to your face, Admiral Calavicci.
'And the man who survived years of captivity knowing that inside he was still free; the man who reached out and touched the stars; the man who sunk to the pits of despair and still managed to haul himself back? I would never have taken that man for a coward.'
Three questions. Questions that I ignored, pushed into the deepest corner of my mind. Questions that forced themselves out tonight, suddenly refusing to be hidden anymore.
Which is why I'm sitting here in the dark instead of being at the Project fussing around all the mathematicians and physicists. Or enjoying my first real night of freedom in a long time...
If Samuel Beckett walks out of the waiting room tomorrow, what the hell would I have to say to him? What will he remember? Ziggy says there's a thirty percent chance that he won't remember anything at all about his Leaps. And even if he does, the memories are likely to be confused. So what will he remember about me? The hologram that's got him out of endless troubles all of his own making? Or the ex-alcoholic, ex-pilot, ex-astronaut has-been that he rescued from the bottom of the barrel out of an almost dispassionate sense of... I don't know what? Pity, maybe.
Except Sam Beckett's above mere pity.
At the moment, I'm his only link with the Project. His only link with the thing that has ruled his life for so long. If he comes back tomorrow, he'd probably work on Ziggy until he reckoned he'd fixed what had gone wrong, and then he'd go straight back into the Accelerator.
Because he's a scientist first and a human being second.
Oh, I'm not talking about the Leaping Sam here. He's all noble and humane. He hurts when others hurt, and he needs to help. Not just to Leap, but because helping has become a part of him. All right, so he helped people before. But it was different then. He invented things that helped humanity - but they were all side products of his precious quest to unravel the secrets of time. He helped me because I was useful to the Project. God, he even convinced himself that he loved Donna because she was going to leave and he needed her to stay. I have this odd 'memory' of Donna leaving Sam on their wedding day. I 'remember' him being devastated for a while.
It was only later that I wondered how much he'd actually cared for her.
Anyway, that was long ago, and it didn't even happen in the 'here-and-now'. Now, the Project has had a strong leader while Sam's been away. A leader who can stand her ground with the best of them, and who loves Sam enough to keep his precious Project going when a more objective person might have given up and called it a day. Heaven knows, there have been times I've been tempted to do just that.
What is there left for me to do? What does a person do when he's done all he's dreamed of and more with his life? And has nothing left to show for it. (Except five ex-wives, a fast car, a flashy wardrobe and a little problem with drink ... )
I'm not getting any younger. It's something to remember in the dead of night when you're on your own because everything you've ever touched seems to have crumbled to dust. Even Tina finally had enough.
So if Sam does come back tomorrow - make that today - what's going to happen to me?
Sam'll still need me, of course. I'm the only one who remembers the changes that have occurred. But I won't be the centre of his universe any more. I won't be his only link with home. I'll just be the Project administrator again. Oh, I'll still be Sam's best friend. But that never meant much then.
So I'd be a fool to expect anything more.
And do I really want anything more? Dreams are all very well, but I know better than most how insubstantial dreams are, how easily they fade in reality's cold light.
Forget Donna, she said. But how can I? Unless Sam changes things again, Donna is too substantial to ignore.
Forget the Navy? Dismiss all the thing's I've been taught, the things that have made me what I am? If only it was that simple.
I can't do it.
To hell with Donna, to hell with the Navy, to hell with the whole macho image I spent so long cultivating. None of them are important. What matters is that I can't risk the pain of rejection. Not again. I've been rejected too many times. I won't go through that again.
Oh, Sam would never consciously hurt me, I know that. But is it likely that he'd choose me over Donna? An alcoholic has-been over a beautiful, brilliant wife?
And he'd treat me differently: he wouldn't be able to help himself. So I'll never say anything. Maybe I am a coward, after all.
But I can't go back to the way it was. I could live with it then - barely- because I didn't know there could be any other way. Well, I know now. And I'd rather walk out of here and into the nearest bar than go back to the way it was.
Which is why I'm here waiting for a call to tell me that the rescue attempt has failed, or that my purpose for going on has just ended.
And tonight I made another promise. This time to myself. That if they manage to get Sam back, I'll stay just long enough to say welcome home. Then I'll pack my bags and run as far away as possible.
Oh, I won't continue where I left off when Sam found me, drinking myself to death. I made a promise, after all. But there are other ways and faster ...
What's the time? Oh, that late already? Time for another cup of coffee.
The phone's ringing ...