|Silver and Gold
Author: QLTales PM
Sam has answered an opportunity for funding of his project but Al's not so sure. A Christmas time story just in time for July.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama/Angst - Chapters: 13 - Words: 108,157 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 07-11-12 - Published: 07-05-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8288496
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Silver and Gold
by: QL Tales
Disclaimer: Quantum Leap and all related characters are owned by Belisarius Productions and Universal. No profit has been made off of the writing or distribution of this piece of fiction.
Sitting at the kitchen table reading the morning news, Al couldn't help seeing that the postman had arrived. Putting down his mug, he tightened the belt of his robe and called to the office off the living room where Sam was working, "I'm going to get the mail."
"I wish you wouldn't go out in your bathrobe," the physicist called back.
"It's just the mailbox, Kid. Besides, nobody's around at this time of day except Mandy Peters...and she said she thinks it's cute."
"It's cute if you're 6 years old," Sam called back. "Not so cute if you're 56 years old."
"Funny, Kid. Funny." Al went ahead and closed the door behind him.
Hearing the door close and knowing that meant Al had gone out despite his protestations; Sam came out to the living room. He shook his head slightly as, once again, he thought about how incorrigible his friend was. "He's never going to change, is he?" he asked as Comet got up from where he'd been curled on the couch and began to weave between his master's feet. When Sam picked him up, the cat batted playfully at his nose. "I know. It's past your breakfast time."
A few minutes later, Al came back in, carrying several envelopes. "There's one here for you from the Millennium Group in New York."
"I'm in the kitchen," Sam called out hearing his friend talk to him. He had bent down to fill the cat's food bowl and was hidden by the center island. As he stood up, he saw Al coming from the living room to the kitchen. "I've been waiting for that," he said as he took the envelope.
"Who are they?" Al asked noticing the cat eating. "You do know I fed him about thirty minutes ago, right?"
Sam looked down at the cat that was happily eating a second breakfast. "That's why I couldn't find the rest of the can I'd put in the fridge last night. He keeps this up, and I'm going to have to rename him Garfield." Sitting down on one of the stools at the island, Sam slit the envelope with a knife from the butcher block kept there. "I'm hoping they're willing to provide at least some of the funding we need for PQL, if not all of it."
This came as news to Al. The last time he and Sam had talked about funding, they'd agreed, or he thought they agreed, that private might not be the best direction to go in. "I thought you were going to at least consider the possibility of submitting a project request to the Pentagon."
"I said I'd consider it but I'm not sure how comfortable I am with the military providing funding. What if they want to use my work for some kind of weapon?" Sam unfolded the letter and started to read it as he talked. "I'd like to explore the possibility of private funding as well."
With a deep sigh, the older man nodded. "Yeah. I know you've never been keen on military funding. I just don't think that private funding's going to be a cakewalk either." Al paused. "We're going to have to send them a proposal, I'm sure."
Sam eyes scanned the paper as he off handedly replied, "Already did. Besides, we won't know until we try." Sam kept reading the letter then let out a little groan. "They want to meet with me so I can explain it all in person."
"You what?" Al asked blinking. Responding to the statement about the meeting he added, "That shouldn't be a surprise to you. Did you think you were just going to say 'I need a billion dollars' and they were going to write the check?"
"I'm not that naïve." Sam folded the letter and put it back into the envelope. "I sent them a proposal about a month ago. They want to meet on the 20th in New York. That's a week from today. That's not a lot of time to get a presentation put together." He gestured to the space around him. "And we were going to get a tree and stuff this weekend and I have to finish the presentation for Monday." He let out a sigh. "I'm not going to have any time for all that."
"And you didn't think it would be a good idea to run that proposal past your partner?" Al asked not addressing Sam's concerns about the timeframe. "The one you asked to help with the business side of things?" He was surprised and slightly annoyed.
"It wasn't like that Al. I was given the name and called them. They said a short proposal should be fine and you were working on that other thing...the work breakdown structure or something. I didn't want to bother you."
"You got a copy of this proposal so I can see what you sent out?"
"Of course. I made a copy before I mailed it. Geez, I know that much."
"Ok, ok. Sorry." Al thought for a moment. "You were going to have to fly to New York anyways for that presentation at Columbia Monday." He put up his hand when Sam started to respond. "I know, I know, you were just going for one night. You can just extend the return date." He started up the stairs to his bedroom. "Give me a minute to get changed and I'll go with you to talk with Mark down at the travel agency."
"That means I'd be in New York for almost a week," Sam called to his retreating friend. He got up and went to the living room, slumping on the couch. The cat followed, jumping in his lap. He scratched him behind the ears for a moment then got up and went to the foot of the stairs. "Why do you need to go to the travel agent?" he called up to his friend.
"Cause I'm going with you, Kid. Who else is going to help you navigate those shark infested waters?"
"You don't trust me?"
Al started down the stairs, now dressed in a pair of black baggies and a red silk shirt. He was adjusting his bolo tie. "It's not you I don't trust."
"Well, then, why do you have to go and supervise?"
Al put his hand on Sam's shoulder. "You remember when we met?"
"No. Old age is creeping in and I have trouble remembering what happened six years ago. Of course I do. What's that got to do with anything?"
"Then you remember the bad ass you were planning to be. Good thing you came to your senses, but you're going to be facing people that have what you were planning to do down to an art form. I'm not going to supervise but if any of those nozzles gives you any hell, I'm going to have your back."
"Oh," Sam said softly when he heard the determined words of his friend.
Al went over to the table beside the front door and pulled his keys off the hook above it. "Now, let's get down to Mark and get those travel plans ironed out."
Sam took his coat off the hook by the door, put it on then took keys out of the left pocket and held them up. "Fine, you can come but I'm driving."
"Ok. You want to drive, you can drive."
Sam pulled open the door and started to walk out, looking over his shoulder as he talked to his friend. "Ever since you bought that..."
"What? My Camaro? What's wrong with it?"
"Nothing's wrong with it. It's just that since you got it, you seem to think you're Mario Andretti in disguise. I don't plan on dying in car wrapped around a telephone pole."
"That's not gonna happen. I'm a very good driver," Al said, somewhat hurt by the accusation.
"It's not a matter of how good a driver you are or aren't," Sam explained as he unlocked his car and got in. "It's a fact, though, that the higher the rate of speed, the less time you have to react to hazards. You're just human. You don't have superhuman reactions."
"Yeah. And I've been a test pilot and an astronaut. If I didn't have great reactions, you think they would have let me pilot those babies?"
"A car is not the same thing as a jet or an Apollo space craft," Sam pointed out. He was also going to point out that as humans aged their reflection slowed down and it had been some years since Al had been either a test pilot or an astronaut. He thought the better of it, though. There was no need to point out Al's age. Once his friend was in the car, Sam started it. "All I'm saying is that sometimes you go a little too fast and you take some chances when you drive. I just didn't feel like sitting in the passenger seat for that today. Besides, I need to stop off at the grocery store on the way home."
"And my back seat doesn't have the room for the groceries. Fine."
"Nope," Sam agreed.
"So, what did they say in that letter? From that group you think are going to provide your angels."
"I don't think they're going to provide any angels," Sam quickly responded. "I'm just hoping they can provide some of the funding we'll need. Look, I know you're not happy that I want to explore the private side of things but give me a break, ok."
"Did I say anything negative? Angel investors, Sam. People that put up money when you're too new to get a bank loan and not a sure enough bet for venture capitalists. I just want you to tell me a little about them."
"It's not what you said; it's how you said it." Sam flicked a quick glance to his friend and then to the road in front of him. "I know what an angel investor is," he added in a mumble.
"I know I rode you sort of hard about the government but you did have some good reasons to want to go a different route. I told you, I'm with you on this thing no matter what. You want to look into private money, you should do it." He paused. "I wasn't sure if you knew what an angel investor was or not. You don't usually pay much attention to financial matters."
"Just because I don't spend all my time on financial matters doesn't mean I'm naive about it." Sam was not going to admit that, before Al's explanation, he didn't have a clue what an angel investor was. His friend was always ribbing him about how he handled finances. He knew it was his weakness. He didn't have to admit it, though.
"Right, Kid." Al nodded to the parking lot up on the right side of the street. "Looks like that bakery's having another sale. It's going to be hard finding a place to park."
"Not a problem." Sam turned down one of the side streets and found a parking space on the street, although it was a further distance. "We'll just walk."
The two men got out of the car to walk to the travel agent. Al was quiet for a moment but then suggested, "You know, I was thinking."
"That explains the smoke I've been smelling," Sam quickly responded with a smirk.
"Ha ha," Al mock laughed. "Don't give up your day job, Shecky. Anyways, Christmastime in the Big Apple could be sort of fun."
"Christmastime at home could be sort of fun, too," Sam responded.
"Yeah, but this way we'll have both worlds. The big city and then back here."
Sam started chuckling, shaking his head at his friend. "I think the only thing you really care about are the Rockettes." He turned thoughtful. "I used to go ice skating all the time with Tom and Katie when I was growing up. I can't remember the last time I did that. Rockefeller Center could be kinda fun."
"Well...I've never really ice skated but what the hell. It'd be fun to try it."
"Never?" Sam questioned. "You said you grew up in New York. How could you have lived in the northeast and never went ice skating?"
The older man shrugged. "Never owned skates as a kid."
"I guess that would make it hard."
"It's ok, though. When Maxine first started going after the skating thing, I tried it. I'm not good, mind you but I won't kill myself on the ice. I guess I picked up some pointers of what not to do."
Sam felt he was now on uncertain footing with Al with the mention of Maxine. It was still a toss-up whether his friend would get angry talking about his most recent ex-wife or if he'd be more accepting of it. "Um, what kind of pointers?" he asked hoping it was a neutral enough question. He was hoping since Al was the one to bring up Maxine, the question wouldn't upset him.
"Well, for one thing it's a good idea to watch where you're going."
Sam was just about to agree when his shoulder banged into a signpost along the sidewalk. "Good idea to do that when you're walking, too," he said ruefully. "What else?"
"You ok, Kid?" Al asked, his concern putting his ex-wife out of his mind. The sound told him Sam had clipped the sign hard. It was on the side where he'd been shot a few years before.
"I'm ok," Sam responded. He rubbed his shoulder then rotated it. Hitting on his left side was a little more painful than it would have been on the right but, in general, the bump had been more embarrassing than painful.
They'd reached the front side of the shopping strip and turned to walk down to Mark's storefront. Going in, they found their agent finishing up with an older couple. Al walked over to where the coffee was. "You want a cup, Sam?"
"No thanks." Sam picked up a colorful brochure that was on a rack surprised that Al hadn't made a beeline for it instead of the coffee. The front was a glossy photo of two very well endowed women in hula skirts. "Hawaii" was emblazoned across the top. "Sure you don't want this instead?" he asked as he held the brochure up for his friend to see. He did his best to keep a deadpan expression on his face.
"Nah. I've got a copy back at the house," he said as he finished fixing his cup.
Sam looked between the older man and the brochure. "You got a copy at the...Al, why on earth do you have copies of travel brochures?" He put the brochure back with the others like it. "Are you planning a trip you didn't tell me about? I can't believe you have it just for the pictures. Wait," he said as he gave his friend a long look. "Maybe I can believe that."
"Well...they are nice looking...but, no. I don't have it just for the pictures. I was thinking the next time we go to Hawaii, I want to branch out for a little site seeing."
"The next time we go? You don't have something up your sleeve again, do you? The last time he'd been to Hawaii was when he and Al had visited Sam's mother for 68th birthday eighteen months before. "It wouldn't be so easy this time. We'd have to make arrangements for Comet, too. Oh, geez! Comet! I forgot about him. If you're going to come to New York with me, who's going to take care of him?"
I don't think that will be a problem."
"Really? Did he learn how to use a can opener or rip open a bag of food when I wasn't looking?" Sam paused for a second, and then continued. "Well, ok, he did manage to get that bag open when I forgot to put it away but that's beside the point. It's not like I can just leave out some extra food and water and leave him on his own. You know he's not good about pacing himself if I put out too much food. Besides, he likes to have company. Maybe you should stay here and I'll go by myself."
"You forget about Rachel."
"Rachel? My assistant at StarBright? You think she'd be willing to come by and check in on Comet? I know she did it when we went to Hawaii."
"Yeah, but we were living in Albuquerque then." He saw Sam's face drop. "Listen, Rachel loves Comet. I bet she'd take him in a heartbeat." He paused. "Since she's still living in Albuquerque...and we're in Alamogordo, we'd have to leave him with her."
"I don't know. He's just getting used to house. I'm not sure it would be such a good idea to introduce him to another strange place. I don't want to stress him out." Sam caught sight of the way his friend was looking at him as he voiced his reservations. "Stop looking at me like that. I'm not being soft like you always accuse me. He's my responsibility. He depends on me and I just want to do what's best for him."
Al blew out a breath. "Sam, you want to go after that private funding, I said I'm good with that. However, I'm going to be there too. I'm telling you, these kinds of people chew people up and spit them out without a second thought. They'd probably have your head spinning with so much financial gobble-d-goop, you'd be ready to sign over your own mother. Comet will be fine with Rachel."
"So, you're saying they're going to chew me up and spit me out if I don't have you there?" Realizing his voice had raised and he'd attracted the attention of the elderly couple, Sam grabbed Al's arm and pulled him over a corner away from the couple. "I can handle this on my own, you know. Sometimes you make it sound like I've never had to do anything financial in my life. Just because I don't have an MBA doesn't mean I'm some kind of simpleton when it comes to dealing with investors. As I recall, you don't have one either unless you went back to school and didn't say anything."
Al blinked a few times. "Listen, I just want to have your back. I won't say a word if things are going swell...I'll just eat their caviar and pretend the club soda is champagne." His eyes took on a slightly more intense look. "And I know you're not stupid. You're one of the most brilliant people I've ever met...but you're also one of the nicest guys that's ever graced this planet. That's what I'm worried about. That they'll take advantage of that."
"Oh, so instead of being a simpleton, I'm naïve. Gee, thanks a lot."
"That's not what I said and you know it's not what I meant," Al growled slightly.
"I know," Sam said with a sigh. "I guess I'm just a little frustrated right now. You know me. I like to have some measure of control over things and a little time to plan. This just came as a curve. I figured they'd want to meet but I thought they'd hold out until after the New Year and I'd have time to get stuff together and time for the holidays too. Instead, I feel like it's all rush, rush, rush." He let out another small sigh and squeezed the bridge of his nose. "I've got that seminar at Columbia that I'm barely prepared for and I have nothing ready for this. I guess I'm just a little nervous."
The older man put his hand on Sam's shoulder. "I get that, Kid. I just want to help. That's what friends...and partners are for, right?"
"Right." Looking over Al's shoulder, Sam could see that the elderly couple had finished and were now leaving. "Looks like it's our turn."
"Yeah," Al stated as they moved over to take the chairs that had been vacated.
"Al. Sam. It's good to see you again," the man behind the desk greeted as he put out his hand to the two men. "What can I do for you? Planning a vacation?"
"I wish," Sam said too softly for Mark to hear.
Al shot a sideways look at his friend having heard the comment but said nothing. "Sam needs to make some changes to that New York trip he's got planned and I'm going to be going as well."
Mark pulled out the information he had for Sam's current itinerary and scanned through it. "You're leaving Sunday morning, and coming home on Tuesday." He smiled at the two men. "So, sounds like you've decided to make a vacation out of it."
"No exactly," Sam responded. "I just found out that I have a business meeting in New York on the 20th so I'll need to extend it so that I'm coming home on the 21st."
"Twenty-second," Al interrupted. "You need to have an extra day padding in case they have any questions," he explained when Sam shot him a look.
"So you'll need to change the hotel from two nights to six and book a different return flight?" Mark asked to clarify. "And you'll want to be on the same flights," he asked Al. "Will you need a room as well?"
"Same flight," Al confirmed. "Sam and I can room together." He turned to his friend. "That is, if you don't mind, Kid."
"No, not a problem."
The two men waited while Mark did the work necessary to change the travel arrangements to suit the now scheduled meeting. Once that was done, he handed Sam a sheet that had new totals on it.
As he took the sheet and scanned it, Sam's face blanched when he saw how much the hotel room was going to be. "There a problem?" Mark asked seeing the look on the other man's face.
"Uh, the hotel…that's a little pricey, isn't it?"
Al took the paper from Sam and also looked at the price. "Didn't you say the university was going to reimburse you for your travel?"
"Only for the two nights I was originally going to be in New York."
"What about the group you're meeting with. Seems to me they should cover some of this."
"I don't want to feel beholden to them, Al." When the older man frowned, Sam forged forward. "That's just the way I want it to be. Besides, you've told me we can write off business costs, right?" He looked back down at the page in his hand. "I just wish it wasn't this expensive."
"Could I make a suggestion," Mark offered. "Instead of staying in Manhattan, why don't you stay in New Jersey? The rates will be significantly cheaper and I can almost guarantee a bigger room than what you'd get in Manhattan."
"I'd have to rent a car then," Sam countered. "It would probably end up costing just as much."
"Not necessarily." Mark pulled a brochure from his desk and turned it so Al and Sam could see it. "This is located in Jersey City. That's right across the Hudson from lower Manhattan. There's a PATH station – that's a subway line between New Jersey and Manhattan – about a two minute walk away. It goes to the World Trade Center and from there; you take the subway or cab to wherever you have to be."
Sam and Al exchanged glances. Al was more inclined to stay in Manhattan even with the higher price tag attached but he knew that it would be a problem for Sam. Considering he had both the meeting with the Millennium Group as well as the seminar, it would probably be best not to have him stressed over something that was so trivial. "What do you think, Sam? Would that work better for you?"
Sam nodded. "It would. Can you check to see how much the rates for that would be?"
Mark made the necessary phone call. When Sam saw the new room rate, he let out a little sigh of relief. As Mark had said, the rate was significantly less. It was just about half what the Manhattan hotel would cost. "Let's do this," he said as he handed the paper back.
"Great." Mark took the paper back and put it in the folder with the rest of the information for Sam's trip. "I'll get this set up and make your flight arrangements. I can have the itinerary and your boarding passes couriered over to you either later today or tomorrow."
"Sounds good, Mark." Al said as all three men stood. "Thanks for the help."
Sam echoed Al's thanks and, after a bit of small talk the two men were on their way out of the travel agency.
"When we get home, you just need to call Rachel and see if she can take care of Comet for you and we'll be all set." He slapped the younger man lightly on the back. "You'll see. This'll end up turning into a little mini vacation."
"I hope so, Al," Sam agreed as the two men walked back to the car. He didn't know why but he had a feeling this trip was going to prove very interesting.