QUANTUM LEAP

Usually when I leap I'm filled with confusion and hesitance; nothing compares to being dropped unexpectedly into the middle of someone else's life. This time, though, it was thrilling. I felt great. It was like the rush you get when driving really fast on a curvy road.

I was on top of the world.

The sound exploded in Sam's ears at about the same time he felt the weight in his hands. He heard a female voice shout, "Wow, guys, you sounded great!" and the clink of glass. Blinking, his first vision was of a cluttered garage and a pair of denim dressed girls handing out beer bottles. Curious about the weight in his hands Sam looked down and saw a bright blue and gray electric guitar hanging on his hip, still quivering from the last chords played. He smiled.

'Cool! I'm in a band!' he thought happily, giving the strings a plunk. He about fell over from surprise at the volume of the sound that hit him in response. Laughter caught his attention, and he looked up again.

"Good one, Russ! You've got my dad down to a T!" There were more chuckles as the group downed the beers and Sam slowly put the guitar down. The four guys appeared to be in their early 20's, grungily dressed in saggy pants and droopy shirts. Their hair was shoulder length and stringy, and Sam wondered what the two girls saw in any of these grubby looking males. But then again, the girls' hair wasn't much better. At least their clothes fit. Sam frowned and looked closer at the blonde girl. Was that an earring in her belly button?

The other girl, whose belly Sam couldn't, see swayed over to him and pressed the icy beer bottle in his hand. She was slight in build, with brown hair and blue eyes, and about a million earrings lined up on the curve of each ear. Her smile was tentative, tinged with sadness as she looked through her lashes up at Sam. "We sounded good together, don't you think?" There was more conviction in her tone than in her body language. She took a swig on the bottle, expectantly waiting for an answer.

"Uh, yeah!" Sam replied, taking a taste of the brew. It felt warm and fuzzy going down his throat, and he happily swallowed more. It soothed him, and he savored the flavor on his tongue for the moment.

"We sure do sex and singing well together, don't we Russ?" she said between sips.
Sam gagged at her comment, beer fizzing up his nose causing his eyes water. "Oh, boy!" he choked out as his band mates again laughed at him.

GARAGE BAND

Part One
October 19, 1989
Seattle, Washington

After his initial center-stage entrance to the world of his latest leap, Sam tried to keep low key until he could figure out who fit where in this group. In the first several minutes of his arrival, he concluded that there was a myriad of reasons why he could be here. A quote he clearly remembered hearing from the Resident Emergency Room doctor he interned under came to mind: "If it wasn't for 20 year old males and alcohol, we wouldn't have any business at all."

This group was on the edge. They had downed an alarming amount of beer is just this short time, and the scattered bottles in the garage indicated this was a common occurrence. Cigarette smoke hung against the ceiling, even with the garage door standing open, and Sam could smell the strong odor of pot clinging to his dirty clothes. Even though the garage was a nightmare, the area around the instruments was fairly well ordered, and the instruments themselves were in good shape. He saw the words "Gimmie Pie" painted on the drums, amused at the mixed meaning; maybe the group wasn't as brain dead as he thought since they came up with a name that symbolized several aspects of what a life could be like. Or maybe it didn't mean anything. Sam shook his head, trying to focus his thoughts.

"Hey, baby, I gotta fly," the brunette growled. Sam found himself studying her. She was an odd mix of vulnerability and inner strength; he couldn't tell which part was an act, or if any of it was an act. She tweaked Sam's nose and walked out of the garage with a wave, to Sam's relief. The other boys threw her kisses and rude comments as she passed by, and Sam heard the other girl call her Carlie. Then Sam noticed the other girl was wrapped around the drummer and just sort of hanging there. They shared a single beer, passing it between them by mouth. Sam was sickened and mesmerized at the same time, his thoughts mixed as to what that might feel like.

As he stood, trying to stay in the background, Sam felt his thoughts were becoming difficult to clarify and wondered if there was some sort of drug residual in action here. Then again, he felt really good and had a hard time keeping a goofy grin off his face. He felt energized, and laughed to himself at the irony of that, being a leper and all. He prowled around the garage, studying everything around him and trying to pick up other names, realizing he could hear their voices but didn't really care what they were saying.
Sam stepped into the driveway, suddenly bored by the contents of the garage. There had to be more out here to see! It was a big world out there!

"Where ya goin', Russ?" Someone called, laughing. "We done practicin'?"

Sam merely waved back at them as he walked happily down the sidewalk. It was a middle to low-class neighborhood, with a mix of trim lawns and peeling-paint houses. He couldn't really tell where he was, and headed for a wooded area at the end of the street. Hearing the wind in the trees would be nice right now, he thought. Relaxing. Then maybe I can form a coherent thought.

He had just entered the group of trees when the Imaging Chamber door snapped open right in front of him, and a purple-clad figure, complete with matching fedora and shirt, stepped in front of him. "Sam? Where are we?" The hologram looked up at the trees as he tapped the hand link and the door closed.

"Isn't it great, Al? Look at these trees. I like being around trees. They inspire me." Sam looked up at the treetops and turned a small circle. "They even smell good."
Al cocked his head and gave Sam a quick visual evaluation, and tapped something into the hand link. "Yeah, I guess so. I can't smell 'em, though. Hey, I thought you leaped into a house."

"Yeah, it's over there," Sam waved in a general direction and Al peered between the trees.

"Oh, yeah. I see 'em now." He turned his attention back to his friend. "You seem happy," the hologram commented.

"I feel pretty good, Al," Sam said, taking a deep breath. "What do you have for me? Anything?"

"Well, you leaped into a musician named Russell Nash."

"Russ, right. Somebody called me Russ."

"Yeah. Russ. Anyway, he's in a band called…"

"Gimmie Pie!" Sam happily offered. "Funny, huh? The name can be taken a couple of ways. I think it's kinda clever!"

Al regarded his friend with a furrowed brow. Did Sam think the sexual innuendo was humorous? "Yeah. Right. Well, Nash is a gifted lyricist. He writes a lot of the band's songs. Very intelligent, even with his problems."

That caught Sam's attention momentarily. "Problems? OK, he needs to bathe a little more often," Sam touched his hair with both hands. "And he needs to wash his clothes." His nose wrinkled. "And they don't fit too well, do they?" He stuck his arms straight out to the sides and looked at the bagginess of the sleeves and droopiness of the jeans.
Al spoke slowly, studying his friend. "That's the style of the time, Sam. It's called the grunge look. There are other reasons he looks like this, though,"

Al waved his hand in front of Sam's face, tearing his attention from his clothing. "Sam, there could be more problems here that we think."

"We? I'm not sure there's a problem. Well, OK, there's the Carlie, who I think sleeps with me, and I think they drink way too much beer," Sam would have rattled on if Al hadn't yelled at him.

"Sam! Look at me and pay attention! What is going on with you, anyway?"

Sam smiled at his Observer. "I just feel great! Like I could fly away, or something! I don't normally act like this, do I?" A cloud of fear momentarily came over him, then he was paying serious attention to Al. He blinked, then looked around. "I, ah. What was that all about? I felt so….different.." Now he looked simply confused, and frowned at Al. "What happened?"

Al's eyes were wide as he watched the transformation fall over his friend. What was going on? "Uh, I don't know, Sam. But the guy you leaped into was a manic-depressive, you know, 'bi-polar' I think they call it. You don't remember Russell Nash, do you?"
Suddenly, Sam's stomach was sinking into his toes. This didn't sound very good. "No. Should I?"

"No, I guess not. But five days from now Russell Nash kills himself. Made minor news, sort of a comment on the grunge band trend. Ziggy thinks you're here to stop his suicide."

Sam looked horrified. "How did he do it?" he asked.

"Handgun. Did it right in his room. The house is right over there," Al pointed in the direction from which Sam had come. "Nash and his pals rent the place. They get the money from gigs, and Nash sells some of his lyrics. They're a very popular local band, Sam. Should have made it big. In fact, a recording company signs them in just a few days, but the contract was void when Nash died. Too bad. They're all good musicians. But."

" 'But'?" Sam echoed, half wishing not to hear the rest.

"Sam, you have to be careful on this one. They're all doin' some kinda drugs. Pot, most of the time, but Nash and McGuire are into heroin. And Nash is supposed to be on meds for his manic-depressive thing, but he is notorious for not taking it. Thinks it destroys the creative part of him, which is when he's in the manic states. Sort of a double-edged sword."

"Why?" Sam questioned. "Because he's productive during the manic states, and depressed in the other state?"

"Exactly." Al pulled out a cigar and lit it, ignoring Sam's wrinkled nose. "There's and interview the day before he does himself in where he says just that. The manic times are what he lives for; when he's the most creative. A high. Probably tries to duplicate the feeling with heroin. So, you don't have to take the prescribed meds, Sam, and you shouldn't. Because it's you here, not Nash, and he hasn't taken them for weeks now, anyway."

"Al, I can't cure a manic-depressive in five days!!"

"That's true, Sam, but Ziggy says you're here to prevent the suicide and make sure that Nash has mandatory drug rehab put into the record contract. That, you can do."
"So, when does he get this contract?"

"Tomorrow night, there's a festival at the amphitheater near here. It showcases a whole bunch of local talent. Nash's band gets signed after performing one song called 'Illusion of Love.' Nash wrote it. All you have to do is make sure the show goes on!"

"I can't be a lead singer!"

"Sure you can! You've done it before, trust me! They have all the instruments covered. You just gotta sing." Al smiled a big smile. "Just think of all the groupies that'll be there! Scantily clad young things, too." He sucked air through his teeth. "Too bad I'm a happily married man. I told you the band's VERY popular around here, didn't I?" He raised one eyebrow in a lecherous fashion.

Sam rolled his eyes and looked skyward. "Why me?" he asked the heavens.

PART TWO

Al stood just outside the Imaging Chamber door, arms folded across his chest, puffing of the cigar. It was nice to see Sam in a good mood for once, but he had also seemed distracted. Al couldn't quite put his finger on it, but he felt compelled to discuss his observations with Beeks. It was never a bad thing to have too much information.
Stepping down the ramp he nodded to Gooshie and plunked down the hand link on the console. "Hey Ziggy." He directed his voice to the orb hanging above his head. "Is Dr. Beeks in her office?"

"Yes," the parallel hybrid computer purred. "But not for long."

"She's going somewhere?"

"Dr. Beeks usually eats her dinner at this hour. I surmise she will be parting for the break room any minute."

Al shook his head and glanced at Gooshie, who shrugged in return. "Are you so bored you keep track of everyone's break schedule?" Al asked.

The computer took on a haughty tone. "I am perfectly capable of tracking millions of details at one time. It's a hobby. I am not bored."

"Just nosy," Al mumbled under his breath. Then, louder, "Fine. Let Beeks know I'll meet her in the break room to brief her on the leap."

Ziggy was definitely miffed. "Fine. And I heard that."

The Observer rolled his eyes as he left the room while Gooshie stifled a laugh.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Dr. Verbina Beeks met Al at the break room door, a smile on her face.

"Ziggy told me to expect you, Admiral," she said pleasantly. Dr. Beeks was a trim, ebony-skinned woman that always carried on with a professional air. It was exasperating to Al how calm she could be sometimes; it just added to the 'shrink' persona, as Al called it. As Psychiatrists go, she was the only one Al could tolerate. He had to admit, he admired her even though she never missed an opportunity to practice her craft.

"Yeah. It's about this leap, 'Bena." He fell into step next to her as approached the food counter and selected lunch items. "What's up with the visitor?"

"Well, he definitely has a bi-polar disorder. I don't want to force the medications on him unless we have to. Hopefully, that will strengthen the trust bond." She eyed the salad, and picked out a plain one. "He was pretty euphoric at first, but seems to be settling down. He's very interested in what's going on."

"No signs of suicide?"

"No, not yet. I read up on Nash's history in the original timeline. Sad, but pretty typical of this disorder, especially in this case. I suspect he's probably a pretty severe case, but I won't know until Ziggy hacks into…oops, I mean, establishes contact, with Nash's doctor's database." She smiled crookedly at her intentional slip.

Al appreciated her keeping the visit friendly, and chuckled at the comment. "Tell me, can this possibly affect Sam in any way?" He tried to deep the question light, but saw Beeks stiffen and give him a serious look.

"How do you mean?" She asked carefully.

"You know, like it has in some other leaps. The sharing of minds thing. Not like the nuthouse leap, but like the Oswald one, or the twins one." Verbena didn't answer right away. "I mean, like a transfer of feelings."

"Has he displayed that tendency?" She asked, again carefully and slowly, her mind whirling as she sat at a table with her salad.

"I'm not sure. He was really….up…..when I saw him at first. Wasn't really focusing. Then he suddenly settled down."

Beeks chewed her salad a minute. "Sudden mood change is one of the signs of a manic/depressive. And a high energy level, nonstop speech, several things." She eyed Al, reading the signs that her words worried him. Sam obviously had been displaying some of those attributes. She sighed and picked at her salad. This was going to be an 'all-nighter', at tern she used when it was necessary to be with visitor 24 hours a day. Anything observed in the Waiting Room could directly effect Dr. Beckett due to the obvious high degree of mind mixing that was going on. And mind mixing with a manic/depressive will be like playing with dynamite.

She juggled around her schedule for the next day in her head as she finished her lunch, the pushed the bowl aside and began the rundown on the disorder for Al.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~

After Al's exit, Sam returned to the house and found his band mates still partying in the garage. He observed them silently for a few minutes, feeling a bit useless. He was only here to fix a contract? His gut told him that wasn't all, and set his mind to find out more about this crowd. He went into the house, leaving the sound of tipsy laughter and breaking bottles in the garage.

The house was more depressing than the garage. There were a couple of broken-down lamps in the corners on the floor, threadbare throw pillows, natty chairs and thin sheets for curtains and boxes for tables in the main living area. Surprisingly, the floor and kitchen were picked up and almost clean. Each of the three bedrooms had mattresses on the floor and dark window coverings. Sam had a tough few minutes of figuring out which room was Nash's, and settled on the one with an acoustic guitar carefully placed in the corner. When he entered the room he saw stacks of papers with hand written lyrics and music piled against one wall at the end of the mattress. At the other end of the mattress were a couple of pillows with an Indian-patterned blanket pulled over them.

Sam sat cross-legged on the bed next to the pillows and noticed a cardboard shoebox on the floor next to the pillows. He picked it up, peeking inside, disgusted and curious at the same time about the contents. There was a pipe, smelling strongly of burnt pot, a small amount of the green, leafy substance in a baggie, dirty cotton balls, matches, a burnt spoon, one syringe and a couple of used needles. A fix kit, Sam concluded. He picked up the burnt spoon and studied it thoughtfully. He knew that the 'cooking spoon' was where heroin was reduced to an injectable liquid, and the cotton balls filtered out some impurities.

As he thought about why someone would do something so destructive to his or her own body, he became alarmed at the sense of excitement he got from handling the spoon. Shocked, he dropped it back in the box and put the lid back on, then set in back on the floor. His hands began to sweat and the sense of craving for the artificial high wouldn't go away. He jumped up, wiping his hands nervously on his pants, and made him self pick up the guitar in an effort to change this train of thought.

He sat down on the other end of the mattress, near the music, and spread some to the topmost sheets out in front of him. It took awhile of forced concentration, but the unwanted thoughts of before were eventually with admiration of Nash's song writing ability. He strummed through several tunes before coming across the music and lyrics for 'Illusion of Love.'

It was a poignant, stirring and powerful. It was brilliant.

Sam ran through it several times, clearly feeling the emotion of the song; it was a direct interpretation of how Nash's illness affected his life. The 'Illusion of Love' was an observation of the falseness of the euphoria he felt during his manic periods, but could also be interpreted as a tragic lost-love story. Something for everybody, so to speak.
Sam admired the work a little longer, then put the guitar aside. He found the words running through his head as he inspected the rest of the house, unable to figure out who belonged in the other rooms. The evening promised to be an interesting time. All the while the memory of his being drawn to the 'fix kit' next to the bed lurked in his head. What was going on with his mind? He thought again.

As Sam entered the living area, the telltale odor of marijuana drifted in from the garage. 'Great,' he thought. 'Just great. I can't believe any of these people get anything accomplished.'

Stepping into the garage was like entering the single frat party Sam recalled going to in college; he was the only sober one there, too. He frowned. Where had that been? He wondered. Or had that been another leap? He shook his head slightly to clear his thoughts.

The band had closed the garage door and cranked up the stereo. Smoke hung in the air, strangely yellow due to the dim lighting. Sam sat on a stool on the 'stage' area and picked up the guitar, picking out the tune currently playing on the radio. The joking conversation soon faded away as he mastered the tune, an unconscious smile creeping on his face. Before he realized what was happening, the others had moved into their places and followed Sam's lead. They copied the song on the radio perfectly, even adding bits here and there. When the song ended, they went right into the next one. Sam realized Al was right; this was a talented group.

The jam went on into the evening, and the smoke became very thick in the garage. Sam felt lightheaded and giddy, but the thrill and satisfaction of the music carried him on. He didn't want to stop. After what seemed like just a short while, Carlie walked in and picked up the microphone. Her vocals egged everyone on even more. She had a great voice, and handled it well. At one lull between songs, she snapped the stereo off and growled, "Shall we practice, boys?" And ran her hand down Sam's back. He shivered; it felt wonderful.
Instinctively, Sam played the first chords to 'Illusion of Love.' The band fell right into it, and Sam picked up the vocals with Carlie singing a haunting backup. The whole scene moved Sam more than he expected, and blamed the blanket of pot smoke in the room for the tears he felt forming in his eyes. It was all so surreal; he felt like he was watching himself from across the room, and it scared him, but at the same time the words to the song had him hooked. It was a weird experience, and as soon as the song was over, he carefully replaced the guitar and practically ran from the room. Carlie followed close behind, but the others continued to jam.

She caught up to him as he paced back and forth in the small kitchen. It had grown dark outside, and for some reason he couldn't fathom, that disturbed him, too. There was a growing feeling of anxiety that was soothed only when Carlie took his hand. A wave of warmth radiated from her touch, and he stopped his pacing at the feeling to look into her eyes.

The sound of the Imaging Chamber door barely registered in his mind as he looked at her. She smiled a sad little smile, looking right back at him.

"Sam," Al said, taking in the scene immediately. "What are you doing? Who's she? No, wait a minute, don't tell me. You're not falling for a groupie, are you? Sam? Do you hear me?" The Observer quickly tapped in the hand link to find out who the girl was, and had to step close to lean over and look at Sam's face. "Hey! What's with your eyes, huh? They're all bloodshot. Sam?" He glanced at the squealing hand link, and looked at the girl again. "Oh, this must be Carlie. Sam, remember she's barely 20 years old!"

Sam had raised his hand to stroke Carlie's cheek. "So am I," he replied calmly even though he could feel a darkness growing in his mind. Touching Carlie held it off.

"What?" The hologram yelped. "No you're not! Sam, it's you, not Nash! Hey! Snap out of it, will ya? I got some stuff from Beeks, here. Come on, get rid of the girl, and let's talk."
Carlie just smiled up at him, and wrapped her arms around his waist. "The voices are there, aren't they?" She whispered.

Al gave her a haughty look, and slapped the hand link. "I'm more than voices, honey. I'm his best friend and I'm looking after him, here! Sam!" He kept an eye on his friend as his fingers flew over the keys.

"Hmmm?" Sam replied, pulling Carlie close.

"Get rid of her so we can talk." Al spoke slowly and firmly, keeping his eyes on his friend. "Now, Sam!"

Sam didn't reply to Al, but held Carlie off at arm's distance. "I'm OK," he said softly, although he didn't feel OK. He felt .. weird, like he was fighting to keep a sense of himself. Darkness and anxiety were still there, hanging off to the side, and Sam felt like he could stand there and study them clinically in his mind. It was very disturbing. "I need to get outside."

"I'll come with you!" The girl said cheerfully.

"No you won't!" Al barked.

"I'll be OK, you stay here. I just need to clear my head. Practice for tomorrow, OK?" Sam said, making for the front door. She had a perplexed look as Sam shut the front door behind him. He let out a nervous breath, and rubbed his hands together as the Observer followed him through the front door. "Ooooh, Al. This is weird. I don't like this." He took off up the sidewalk in a long-strided walk with the hologram right next to him.

"Join the club! I feel like I'm talkin' to a brick wall. Slow down, all ready! Someone chasing ya?" Al managed to keep up all the way to the woods up the street, where Sam suddenly slowed.

"The trees feel better," Sam said softly, frowning as he stepped among the trunks.

"Wha, huh? Why do trees feel better?"

"I don't know. Safer, I guess." Sam slowed way down, looking up at the leafy darkness above him. It was peacefully quiet out here, "and cleaner."

Al snorted. "No argument there. I think you inhaled too much of that smoke back there, Sam. It was like walkin' into a fog bank!"

"I read a lot of Nash's lyrics. They sure are dark. Now I see why. I guess the band's aim is to depress teenagers."

"Oh, now there's a stretch," Al laughed shortly. "Depressing teenagers is like shootin' fish in a barrel." He studied the hand link for a second. "Ziggy says the depressing lyrics are the trend now. Lots of bands are that way. I heard enough of them in my daughter's room."

"Oh." Sam felt a chill, and wrapped his arms around himself. "Al, I don't know what's going on. I feel like someone else is trapped in my head."

Al calmly regarded his friend. "Well, you aren't alone. Beeks says Nash keeps asking her all sorts of questions about his treatment in the Waiting Room. He thinks he's in a mental hospital."

Sam raised an eyebrow and looked at his friend. "Really?"

"Yeah. In fact, he keeps thanking Beeks for clearing his mind for him. Says he hasn't felt this good in a long time. He says the voices are gone, Sam." He hesitated a second, and looked right at his friend. "Do you hear voices?" He closely watched Sam's eyes for any hint of a lie. He was a lousy liar. Al could always tell.

The shock of gray in Sam's hair had fallen foreword over his forehead, making him look like a skittish colt. He held Al's eyes, the uncertainty clear. "I..ah..I'm not sure. There's something odd. It's hard to describe, but there's no voices."

"Well, Beeks thinks there's an unusually large amount of mind mixing goin' on between you. She says you may feel anxious or excitable, but you have to remember it's Nash, not you. OK?"

"OK." He pushed the lock of hair back.

"Anything else you need from me?" Al asked. "I've got to get some sleep. You gonna be OK?"

"Yeah. Can you find out what happens with McGuire? The guy you mentioned does heroin with Nash?"

"Sure. Hang on," he tapped the hand link while Sam waited.

Sam kept turning around slowly in a tight circle, looking at the trees. He felt like they weren't alone, but couldn't see anyone out there. The feeling was creepy, and he felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck.

"Well, it seems that McGuire enters a drug rehab facility shortly after Nash's death. I guess that's one good thing, huh? He's still around, playing back up for various bands, and is a studio musician for Def Records right now. Has a good reputation." Al opened the Imaging Chamber door with a couple more pokes to the hand link, and frowned at his friend. "You OK?"

"Yeah." Sam waved his friend off. "Yeah."

"Remember, Sam, it's Nash's illness, not yours. OK?"

"Right. Not mine."

"All right. See ya later." Al didn't look completely convinced as the door closed, leaving his friend alone in the woods.

PART THREE

After Al left Sam had every intention of going back to the house and going to bed. The idea of sleeping through this leap was appealing. Instead he found himself walking out of the woods, then suddenly being surrounded by darkness. It wasn't just the night, it was a blanket of darkness in his head, and he felt his anxiety level skyrocket. He knew he was running, but didn't know where he was. The Nash part of his brain simply took over, and the Sam part was fighting for control. He kept repeating, "I'm Sam Beckett!" Over and over in his mind for what seemed like an eternity, when he suddenly blinked his eyes and found himself curled up in the back seat of a car.

He was breathing hard, and when he brushed his hair from his eyes he noted it was wet with sweat. His hands were filthy and scratched, as were his clothes. Mud was on his knees and shoes. What had happened? He didn't remember any of it! He looked out the front of the car and saw the orange hood of a beat up Volvo. There were dirty blankets and bits of paper on the back seat with him, and on the floor was a bunched up blanket. He was trying to stop his hands from shaking when he heard the car door click open.

"I heard the car door slam and figured it was you returning to your own personal space." Carlie slid in next to him and quietly shut the door. "Oooh, Russ, where have you been? It's been hours." She took his hands in hers and they stopped shaking. She brushed off some of the dried mud. "I knew I should have come with you. Are you OK?" She eased over next to him and gathered him up in her arms. "Do you want to go inside?"

"No," Sam said quickly. He didn't want to go anywhere, especially back in that house, until he calmed down and figured out what happened. Carlie was a great comfort, and he felt his heart slowing to a normal beat as she held him. "Let's just stay here a little bit," he whispered. Hours? He'd been gone for hours?

"OK," she said quietly, and kissed his forehead.

Sam's mind was suddenly clear, and he felt his eyelids growing heavy. "I can't deal with this." He thought to himself as he dropped off to sleep, exhausted.

Project Quantum Leap
Stallion's Gate, New Mexico

Al knew he needed some rest himself. It had been at least 20 hours since he last slept, and his burning eyes were a constant reminder of that. He'd check the Visitor one last time, the get a quick catnap. Too bad Beth was visiting their daughter in California, he thought, a smile touching his mouth.

He rubbed his eyes one last time and entered the Waiting Room. The aura of Sam was sitting up in the bed, eyes bright.

"Admiral Al," he greeted calmly. "You're the only one who confuses me here. Did you know that?"

Al raised his eyebrows, surprised. "No, Russell, I didn't. Why's that?"

The Visitor put his hands behind his head and settled down. "I can't figure out if you're a Doctor or a patient in this establishment. I mean, what hospital has a Navy man on its payroll? I'd say you're a patient, but you get to wander in and out of here like you own the place. Why's that?"

Al laughed softly. Hard to believe this guy was barely in his twenties. He was well spoken, controlled, and if inquisitiveness was and indication of intellect, very smart. The laughter died in his throat when he realized what this young man would be returning to. "Well, you're very perceptive, but I can't really tell you all the details of this place. How are ya doin'?"

Russell Nash smiled, and it dawned on Al that in all the pictures he'd seen of the doomed young man, none of them showed him smiling. "I don't know what you're giving me, but I'm impressed. I haven't thought this clearly in a long time." His face softened, and the smile disappeared. "It seems too calm, though. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak." He tapped his temple with one hand. "I got it!" He snapped his finger and pointed at Al. "You were a Navy Doctor! Now you're retired and in the private sector. That it, right? My dad was in the Navy," he hesitated and frowned. "Or was it the Marines? Why can't I remember?" His voice was edged in panic, he sat up straighter.

Immediately, Dr. Beeks appeared from her office behind a one way glass, all smiles. "It's OK, Russell. Part of the treatment affects memory, but it will go away. It's all temporary, but frustrating, huh?" She adjusted the pillow behind his head, looking for any signs of fear.

He calmed down immediately. "Oh. OK. I think you said that before, didn't you?"

"Yeah. See? You're remembering already!"

Al smiled calmly. "Russ, I need to speak to Dr. Beeks a minute. Excuse us."

Al walked to the exit door and Beeks fell in beside him. "Yes, Admiral?" She asked quietly, their backs to the Visitor.

"Why is there no sign of his illness? Did you give him something?"

"No, I haven't," she replied. "I've been giving him vitamins and telling him it was
medicine."

Al's jaw dropped. "You lied to him? I didn't think you had it in you!" He grinned at her.

"Al. Really." She looked indignant. "Is that all you wanted to know?"

He got serious again. "Hypothetically, if there's no sign of his illness here, in him, could Sam, you know," he did a flipping motion with his hands, "have gotten it?"

She looked thoughtful. "We've seen it happen before, as you said, but this would be to a severe degree. I'd say yes, it's possible. He's acting out, isn't he? Sam I mean."

"Yeah."

"Well, the good thing is that Mr. Nash here is still having some mood swings, so the brunt of the whole thing isn't on Sam's shoulders yet."

" 'Yet'?"

"Mr. Nash has been steadily improving since he got here. If this influence has to 'go' somewhere, it may be going to Sam. This is all such unexplored territory, Al, I can't predict anything. But based on our past experiences here, I'd say that's a given."

"So if Sam stays there long enough, he'll experience the disorder to the fullest and Nash here will be completely unaffected."

"That's my guess." She crossed her arms over her chest, obviously not comfortable with that idea, either.

"You need to tell me immediately when there's not trace of the disorder here in Nash. Can you do that?"

"That's what I figured, and why I'm here for the duration, Admiral." She indicated the one-way glass with her hand, once again all business.

Al waved good bye to the Visitor, nodded at Beeks and left for his quarters. He needed to get some rest now. He had a feeling everything was going to hit the fan soon, and he needed to be on his toes.

Seattle, Washington
October 19, 1989

Sam's sleep was neither restful nor refreshing. He woke up thrashing, his dreams filled with nightmarish scenes of horrible things. Carlie woke with a squeak, accidentally struck with Sam's flailing arms. She had pulled the heavy blanket from the floor over them, as it was now pretty cold in the car, and Sam fought the covering like it was smothering him.
He pushed his way out of the car, and stood in the cold night air, his breath puffy clouds of mist pumping out as if he were a steam engine. He stood, holding himself and stomping his feet, trying to get control of the thoughts racing through his head.
Then he heard them. Little whispering voices that made him spin around and check behind him. He couldn't make out what they were saying, but it sounded like a lot of them. Part of him was saying they weren't really there, but the other part was unconvinced. "Where are they?" he whispered out loud.

"Russ, come on honey, let's get inside. I'm freezing." Carlie came out of the car, hugged his arm, and maneuvered him into the house.

Sam went willingly because her touch helped him focus. The voices faded away when she held him, and he hung on to her like a life preserver. They went into the house, which was quiet and dark. He saw the dark form of someone draped over a broken down couch in the living room, unmoving.

"What time is it?" he softly asked out loud.

"I don't know. It's a ways until dawn, though. Come on. If you can't sleep, we can write for awhile." She yawned.

When the got to his room, she closed the door softly. The fleeting thought that he shouldn't be in here alone with her went through his mind, but the fear of her leaving quickly quashed it. She plopped on the mattress, and pulled the blanket over her. "Come on, sit here with me."

She was unbelievably mature for her age, Sam thought, admiring her from the foot of the mattress. It this was even a little bit how Nash's mind usually was, he was lucky to have her. Sam wondered if Nash knew that, and suspected he must.

Sam couldn't sit, and paced the room feeling like his body was electrified. He wrung his hands, and started talking quickly and quietly to himself. "Why am I here? Who needs me? I've got to figure this out."

Carlie watched him with half closed eyes, not interfering. After listening to his rambling, unable to sleep, she finally gave up with a sigh. "Come on, let's write it down." She sat up and dug out a pad of paper from nearby. "Find a pencil, Russ. Writing it down always helps."

Sam pushed all the music sheets on the floor aside, found a pencil, and took the pad. She leaned against his back as he sat, scribbling, which must have been uncomfortable because he couldn't sit still. As he wrote, he rocked back and forth and whispered nonstop. He felt exhilarated, like he was on a runaway horse, high as a kite, and scared to death all at the same time.

It was insane. And he wondered how he could possibly help anyone in this condition. He was still trying to figure out how to help himself.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~

When Al finally showed up again, Sam was physically exhausted. Carlie was asleep on the mattress, and when the Imaging Room door finally swooshed open Sam glanced at Al and shot out the bedroom door motioning the Observer to follow. Dawn was just coloring the overcast sky a weak gray.

No one stirred in the house as Sam sailed through to the sidewalk, where he stopped to wait for his friend.

"What's the big hurry, Sam? And you look terrible! You have bags under your eyes the size of Texas! Haven't you slept?"

Sam was pacing back and forth in a tight pattern. "Al, I'm a mess. I've been up all night. I heard voices, just like you said, and I think I just rewrote either War and Peace or my proposal for the Project on every scrap of loose paper I could find!" He held his palms against his temples. "And my brain won't turn off! It just keeps running and running…"
"Yeah, like your mouth! That's Nash's mind, Sam. You've got to remember that and use your head to calm down, here. Hear me?"

Sam saw a man come out of the house next door to pick up the newspaper lying in the driveway. He looked oddly at the grungy young man talking to himself, and slowly returned to his home, but continued to watch Sam through one of the front windows. Sam smiled weakly at him and mumbled, "Let's get in the car," then slipped inside the battered orange Volvo.

Al popped in next to him and looked around. "What a wreck. Must be what they haul their instruments around in. Hey, by the way, you sing this evening, remember? You know the song?"

With a brief wave at the hologram Sam said, "Yeah, yeah, I have it, but I can't do this if I have another one of these….these…"

" 'Episodes'?" Al offered.

"Yeah. Episodes." Sam rubbed his eyes. "What do I do if that happens, Al? I don't think I can really control them. How can I help anyone when I'm like that? And what does Ziggy predict happens when Nash lives?"

The hand link squealed as Al thumped it on it on its side. "I had that here…hang on.." and he whacked it again, causing Sam to cringe. "Piece of junk..wait, here it is.." Al read the information out loud as it scrolled across the tiny screen. "Well, when Nash died, the band broke up, and they all went their own ways. They joined other bands, or became solo artists like McGuire. Carlie starts her own all-girl band, and does well, too, but Ziggy gives it a 92.67% chance that you're here to keep them together. They become a lot more successful as a group with Nash's creative drive behind them."

Sam leaned his head on the steering wheel. He was obviously tired. "So, Ziggy says they do all right no matter what happens to Russell Nash."

Al hesitated. "Well, yeah, I guess that's true. Although Ziggy says that McGuire will probably die of a heroin overdose. She won't project a probability, though."

Sam looked annoyed. "Why? Why won't she predict the chances for that?"

"She says there's too much human nature involved with that kind of prediction, and she doesn't want to quote anything without more hard facts, which would have to be obtained after events change here. She's saying it's too soon to tell. So, you must be here to keep the band together and save Nash. Just like Ziggy says, then she can predict what happens to McGuire." He slipped the link in his coat pocket.

Sam frowned. Inside he knew how impossible that would be to save Nash in the long run, but he was too tired to argue. "I need some sleep before tonight," he mumbled, part of him craving the idea and part of him afraid of more nightmares.

His friend and Observer studied him for a moment. "You OK now, Sam? Nash in there at all?" He tapped his forehead with a finger.

"I, ah, think I'm OK right now." The car did feel comforting, and not wanting to wake Carlie, he just leaned back and shut his eyes. "I'll just rest here a bit."

"Here?" Al was about to protest further, and bring up the idea of cuddling with the sweet, young thing in Nash's room, but the soft, regular breathing of his friend told him he was too late. Sam was already asleep. "OK, then, I'll just check back in awhile."

PART FOUR

Project Quantum Leap
Stallion's Gate, New Mexico

Al spent the time after leaving Sam signing reports and budgets, and eventually got down to Beeks' office. She was busy typing at her computer, pages of handwritten notes spread out on the table next to her. White uniformed medical personnel moved in and out of the office with quiet efficiency, smiling an nodding at the Admiral as he watched the figure of Sam through the one-way glass.

Russell Nash was quietly reading, but Al noticed that his foot kept bouncing under the sheets. Eventually the Visitor got up from the bed and moved to the chair after pacing a bit.

Dr. Beeks noticed the motion and stopped her typing, then moved to stand next to Al.

"He's getting restless," she noted. Al nodded. "He's been saying that he feels like something's going to happen. Sort of a growing feeling of apprehension."

"Oh? Is that part of his syndrome?"

Beeks shook her head. "No, I don't think so. First of all, I think he's bored. He has told me that he sort of misses the manic states when he's creating and writing, and thinks he's lost artist part of himself. But, he doesn't miss the depression part, which has always scared him. He knows they go hand in hand. I thinks he's trying to figure out how he can function in this state of boring normalcy."

Al snorted. "If he thinks this is normal, he's really confused."

Beeks stood next to Al, crossing her arms. "He's approaching his fifth hour without symptoms, Admiral. That's the longest period so far. I afraid that if he gets used to this calm state of mind, he won't adjust well to his return." She turned to face Al, and waited until he met her eyes. "And I'm afraid of what's happening to Sam. If Nash has been without symptoms here for that long, I'm assuming Sam has now had them nonstop for that same period. I'm fear for both of them, Admiral."

Dr. Beeks last statement was all Al needed to launch himself to the Imaging Chamber.

Seattle, Washington
October 20, 1989

Sam had no idea how long he'd slept in the car. The drummer, McGuire, banging on the window and making rude noises, awakened him. Apparently it wasn't unusual for Nash to sleep in the car. McGuire just carried on like it was a normal event.

The sleep hadn't been restful. It was again full of odd and disturbing dreams as if his brain was still running wildly, even in sleep. He shook his head to clear it, but felt a slight fog hanging in the back of his mind. Making his way into the house he saw that it was nearing noon, and the rest of the band was just getting up. There were open beers already in the kitchen, adjacent to the cereal boxes. He shook his head, amazed, and dug around for some bread to make toast.

He felt Carlie's arms around his waist as he looked in the refrigerator, and it made him smile. She was as tired as he was, but smiled at him anyway. She had a cigarette between her fingers, and sat on the counter to watch him.

"I suppose we're gonna practice again before we pack up?" She asked, tiredly.

A wad of rolled up paper arched over her shoulder and bounced off Sam's back. "Yeah, we'd better." Came the comment from the living room, where the bass player, Tony, was still draped on the couch. "There's gonna be a big crowd there tonight." He yawned.

The give and take of conversation grew as McGuire and the other guitar player, Del, came in. Beer bottles clinked and more paper wads flew, but they seriously planned for the evening at the same time. Sam listened, waiting for his toast, following the planning and feeling a growing sense of something vague and threatening in his mind. He couldn't put his finger on it; it was like a constant hum in the back of his mind. It was easy to ignore at first, but as time went by the distraction grew.

"Hey," he felt someone poking his side. "You toast. It popped up a while ago." Carlie pointed at the aged toaster.

Sam pulled out the toast and found a butter knife. The only spreadable thing in the kitchen was a bit of peanut butter, so he started to slather it on the bread when the white-fog-and-hum turned into distinct whispers. He dropped the knife and looked around, but everyone else was still talking in the living room. The whispers were coming from inside his head again.

He managed to distract himself for awhile by following the group through the planning session and practice. He sang the song, with Carlie as backup, in a shaky manner. Carlie studied him, concerned. The others teased him for saving himself for the performance.

"You always stink just before we hit the stage," Del quipped. It didn't make Sam feel any better.

They practiced again, then loaded up the Volvo, in a smoky haze of cigarettes and pot. The whispers in Sam's head faded in and out, but were always there, as was Carlie, who obviously knew something was going on and stayed by his side. She was a source of strength for him, and he was grateful.

The car was packed and ready to go by early afternoon. The others went off is search of food, leaving Sam alone with his private demons. The voices had stayed in the background, and now that it was quiet he nervously moved around in the garage, trying to keep distracted. The sound of the Imaging Room door was very welcome.

"Hey, Sam, how's it going?"

"Where have you been?" Sam sounded more panicked than angry, but was thankful for the company.

"Doing Project maintenance and research. The same old stuff." He kept his voice level even when he saw how awful his friend looked.

"Don't leave again, Al. Something's going on, and I don't want to be alone, OK?"

"What's going on?" He hoped he'd kept the alarm he felt from his voice.

Sam paced back and forth, his hands pressed against his head. "I don't know. I can't explain. It's this feeling that something bad is going to happen. These voices are trying to warn me and they won't stop."

Al knew what was going on; Sam had the full brunt of Nash's affliction. He didn't know how much to tell him, because there was nothing Sam could do except hang on until he leaped. That's what he told him, and Sam sank down on the garage floor, looking as close to being utterly defeated as Al had ever seen him. "You can hang on, Sam. Just keep yourself separate from Nash. Don't ask me how it works, but Beeks says to try and visualize yourself in you mind. Separate your mind from Nash's."

Sam didn't get time to apply the practice. The others came back with fast food, which Sam discovered he couldn't eat. McGuire blamed it on pre performance jitters. Everyone else was in very high spirits, Carlie included, which made Sam feel even more like an outsider.

When it came to leave for the amphitheater, enthusiasm was high and girlfriends appeared from nowhere much to Al's delight. The Observer tried to keep up the appearance of having a good time, but was actually deeply worried. Sam seemed disjointed and unconnected. It was disturbing.

There was only room for Carlie and Sam in the Volvo, since they had all the instruments. The others and their girlfriends piled in an old Toyota. Carlie offered to drive, and they fell in behind the other car. A beer bottle sailed out of the window of the Toyota, crashing to the sidewalk in a million pieces. Sam felt like his brain was about to do the same. Al hovered between them, trying to keep the conversation light. Sam's growing unresponsiveness made it extremely difficult.

It took about a half-hour to get to the amphitheater. When they arrived, there were loud and raucous tailgate parties going on in the public parking lot. Sam saw McGuire and the others hanging out of the windows, yelling at the crowd as they drove by to the performers' entrance. They had to wait several minutes before they could get to the back stage entrance. Spirits were very high as the group unloaded the instruments and dragged them inside, the girls bouncing happily after them.

Sam held back, unable to get himself to enter.

"What's the matter, Sam? It's almost over!" Al urged. "Go in!"

"I .. I.. can't," he whispered, barely hearing himself over the voices.

Carlie, hearing his words, took his hand and pulled him back to the car. "Come on, Russ, let's park the car. It'll give you time to get yourself together."

He allowed himself to be pulled back and loaded back in the car.

"Sam!" Al protested. "Where're ya goin'? Get back here!"

Carlie drove out of the crowded lot, back around an access road behind the amphitheater to a small stand of trees. She slowly drove off the pavement into the trees, and stopped the car. They could look across a small parking lot to the back of the amphitheater, which was slightly below them, visible between the trees. With the windows cracked, they could hear loud music from the numerous cars, and occasional party noise. Carlie turned off the car and took Sam's hand. The sun was low on the horizon, sunset imminent.

"Uh, oh, Sam. This looks a little romantic, if you get my drift. Don't ya want to get set up, or something??" Al was concerned Sam wouldn't leave the quiet of the car at all, and as a result not accomplish the job Ziggy said he was here to do.

Sam just looked tired and zoned out, and stared out of the windshield, gripping Carlie's hand. She pulled his head over onto her shoulder, and he closed his eyes. It was amazing how her touch held the voices back. He was trying to hang on.

She stroked his hair and hummed quietly. Only Al saw her check her watch repeatedly, and the worried look on her face. The responsibility of getting Sam to the stage was on her young shoulders, and she knew it. When the sun had finally dropped down, and the performances were about to begin, she began gently pushing him in that direction. He willingly followed her from the car as they walked to the back entrance doors. Al stayed right next to Sam, urging him on, but he knew Carlie was really the driving force here and was glad she was there for his friend.

When they got backstage, Sam seemed to perk up. The energy of the waiting bands was catching, and Al actually saw a ghost of a smile on Sam's pale face. So did Carlie, and she smiled a huge smile and hugged him. She was catching the excitement, and her eyes glowed.

She's a natural for this, Al thought, an idea coming to him. He tapped on the hand link as Sam and Carlie joined the throng in the wings. There was tremendous applause for the band that just finished up, and the next group crowded by to hit the stage. The audience was wildly cheering, and just warming up.

"Hey, Russ! Carlie!" McGuire pushed his way up to them. "We're after these guys. We have about 15 minutes, I'd guess." He guzzled a beer, and tossed the bottle behind him with out a thought. "We're gonna kick ass!"

Carlie beamed and could hardly contain herself. She stood on her toes to see onto the stage, and chatted happily with the other band members.

Sam felt more and more disconnected, like he was watching through a growing fog. The closeness of the crowd heightened his anxiety, and he found himself backing up out of it until he was against a wall. He couldn't tell if the buzzing he heard was in his head or his ears, but the anxiety was quickly turning to panic and he stumbled along the wall until he came to a door and pushed his way in.

It was a small closet with some buckets and brooms, and piles of ropes hastily stacked. Sam shut the door, welcoming the darkness, and squatted down.

He felt lost.

"Sam? Hey, you in here?" Al's voice was tinged with worry.

Sam could hear the cheering and stomping feet from the crowd in the amphitheater from inside the tiny room. It was all he could hear outside the murmuring voices growing in his head. He slumped against the wall with his hands pressed against his ears in an effort to get some peace. He had to think! He squeezed his eyes shut and slid to the floor, resting his forehead on his knees. The voices were getting stronger, and he could feel the butterflies of panic rising in his chest.

"Sam! Breathe slowly! Calm down, Sam! Do you hear me? Sam? SAM!"

The voice was persistent and loud, rising over the others in his mind. From somewhere deep inside, a spark of recognition held back the descending darkness for just a moment. "Al?" he choked, forcing his head up and peeking though one eye. "Help me!"

"You've got to hang in there just a bit longer, Sam! Ziggy thinks you may not be here to perform at all! Carlie has to sing, Sam, not Nash! Carlie has to sing! Do you hear me?" The Observer was horrified at what he saw, but there was nothing he could do to physically help his friend. Sam was going down fast. "Control your breathing, Sam! Look at me! Listen!"

Sam was still cowered on the floor, attempting to hide from unseen assailants. Through the painfully squinted eyes, Al could see the inner turmoil Beeks had warned him about. He had to keep Sam Beckett in control for just a bit longer. "Ziggy says that Nash was on a manic high when he performed this song originally. He was phenomenal! Your leaping in has changed that, Sam. He's going into a depressive state now! You can't perform, Sam, but Carlie can! That's why you're here! Do you hear me?"

There was a knock on the door that Sam didn't even seem to notice, being so focused on fighting his inner demons. Al could hear him trying to control his breathing and hang on.
"Russell?" Carlie's voice was filled with concern. "Come on Russ, it's our turn, honey! Russell? You OK?"

"Tell her, Sam! Tell her you can't go on!"

"Carlie…" Sam's voice was barely a whisper.

"Louder, Sam!" Ordered the hologram.

"CARLIE!" The shout made Sam cringe, and a tear slipped from his clenched eyes. Al's voice was his only lifeline to sanity, and he desperately grasped for it.

The door burst open, and sweet, lovely Carlie fell to her knees next to Sam, gathering him in her arms. "Hold on, Russ, my love. Shh, shh. I'll quiet the voices." She took him in a tight embrace, rocking him slightly as she had done for Russell in so many of those dark times. Al had to admire her heart.

"Tell her, Sam. Tell her to go on without you," Al was firm and calm, even though the sight of his friend is so much pain tore him up inside.

"Go, Carlie," Sam muttered clearly, the voices dimming at her touch. He didn't want her to go; she made him feel safe. He knew, though, that her future had to go on without Nash; Russell Nash had to follow another path, alone. Sam Beckett, supported by the loving arms of Carlie, had the strength to take control and make the decision for their future. "Sing my song. For me. Go."

"Are you sure?" She was petting his temple calmly, and Al could see the creases on his friend's forehead relax. She really had to love Nash to put up with all this, Al mused.

"Yes," Sam whispered. Al could see the struggle inside both of them. Carlie, torn between the stage and her lover, and Sam, desperately fighting to keep his sanity.

"Make her go, Sam. You have to." Al felt like a heel, but knew what had to be done.
Sam finally pushed her away. "I don't need you. Go."

Carlie's eyes were wide with surprise and hurt. She slowly stood, and hesitated, watching her mentor curl up into a ball of inner pain.

"GO!" Sam barked, his hands clenched tightly over his ears. The voices were rising again like an ocean swell.

Frightened, Carlie turned and fled from the room.

The room became too close for Sam. He felt as if the rising voices would drown him here, so he stumbled from the room, using the wall for support. The chanting in the amphitheater added to the cacophony of voices egging him on. He found a back door, and burst through into the night air. The chill of the night shocked him into awareness for just a few moments, and he discovered he was running clumsily through a parking lot. There was a gravelly voice close on his heels.

"SAM! Stop! Where are you going? Slow down, will ya?" Al tried to keep the fear out of his voice as he followed his friend through the parked cars. He was gonna have a few owie-lumps tomorrow, the Admiral thought, the way he was tripping and banging into things. "Come on, Sam! Don't you wanna hear Carlie?"

Sam slowed, not completely aware of the hologram next to him. He only had one goal, and focusing on that goal was the only thing he felt he could control at this point; find the car. The familiar closeness of the car would comfort him and perhaps stave off the darkness he felt surrounding him. He stumbled out of the lot into the small stand of trees that stood between him and his goal.

Al realized where he was heading. "Yeah, OK, the car. It's right over here." He led the way, and Sam seemed to follow on automatic pilot. There still was some sort of inner battle going on in his friend's eyes. Maybe the familiarity of the car would help.

Al could hear the emcee announcing the band. "And now a local favorite! Hailing from right here in Seattle, Gimme Pie!" There was a wave of cheering, whistling and stomping feet as the familiar chords screamed into the night. Al had to admit, the excitement was catching, and the song was perfectly in tune with the feeling of the crowd.

The familiar guitar riffs hummed through the air just as Sam found the car, and he desperately pulled the door open, seeking refuge from the onslaught. He fell inside, slammed the doors, locked them, and huddled down deeply in the seat after cracking the window open to hear the band. He barely noticed or acknowledged Al, who was sitting right next to him.

Al was concerned, and tried to keep the mood light. "Wow, quite the view! Can't see the crowd, but the lights are pretty. Can hear 'em too. Listen to Carlie! She's great!"
Carlie's deceptively sweet voice as strong and edgy. The song took on a more haunting feel when she sang it, and Al had to admit it was a better fit than Nash's style. Carlie had more edgy depth and emotion. He knew it would be a hit, and pulled out the hand link to verify his feeling. Sam had to leap soon, or he would lose his mind.

"Sam! Ziggy says you've done it! Nash was never meant to sing here. Carlie gets the group signed! In fact, eleven years from now 'Illusions of Love' is named one of the top twenty rock and roll songs of all time, credited with starting the grunge/garage band phase! Let's see …what happens to Nash.." Al poked a few buttons, concentrating on the read out as he threw Sam an occasional worried glance.

Meanwhile, Sam felt himself falling into a pit of swirling darkness. The voices were chanting, chanting, endlessly chanting, drawing him into the pit. Once in awhile he could hear a clear voice calling, "Sam! Sam!" but couldn't grasp the meaning. Carlie's beautiful voice and his comforting music were floating above it all, and Sam felt himself reaching for it, knowing he could never save himself from this grave-like darkness. He started to cry, and at that moment, gave up. He couldn't live like this. No one could live like this.

Then Sam then saw himself standing aside, a mere shadow in the darkness as Nash took over. He reached for something cold and metallic as Sam watched, helpless. Nash caressed the steely thing, and looked up where the sweet sound of Carlie seemed to be floating above.

"You're the only thing of true beauty I ever had," Nash whispered to her. "I can't fight the darkness anymore. I'm sorry."

Sam watched Nash raise the muzzle of gun, and felt the coldness of the metal on his own lips.

Al was screaming at the top of his lungs, unseen and unheard, as he watched his friend pull the handgun from under the seat. Sam regarded it, caressed it for a moment as he whispered something, then slowly put the muzzle in his mouth.

"DON'T DO IT, SAM! Nash is supposed to die, not you!" His vision was blurred from unshed tears, his hands fruitlessly grabbing at Sam's hands. "SAM! NOOO!" The Observer helplessly watched as his best friend closed his lips on the gun, a shiny tear running down his cheek onto the muzzle.

As Carlie's voice reached the crescendo of the chorus, her plaintive sweetness surrounding them like a shield, there was a flash of blue lightning instantaneously followed by an thunderous gunshot.

Sam Beckett had escaped.