Disclaimer: I own nothing. I thank the creators and owners of these characters for allowing me to write fan fiction for my own and others enjoyment.

The remembered conversation part of this story has dialogue directly from the final episode "Mirror Image." The fact that it is written into this story is simply to provide the connection with the show and in no way is indicative of utilizing the words as my own.

NEVER

Six months. Six months and Sam still hadn't leaped. Ziggy had stated she could no longer access the link. From her point of view, her father was truly gone.

Damn! I promised that I'd get him out of that place. Sam was so sure that the Bartender had been the one leaping him. Al, though, had felt that Sam finally lost it. Then again, the entire leap was so strange. Finding him in Cokeburg, Pennsylvania on his exact birthday. How weird was that.

Al had left the Imaging Chamber after that last conversation with Sam, determined to find someway to help him. He remembered it clear as day. When they had first located Sam in time, Al had found him in that bar. Sam had been incredibly happy to see Al. Al had just wanted to figure out where Sam really was. When Sam had pointed out the bar was named 'Al's Place,' Al had made a comment that he'd always wanted to own a bar. It was the next thing Sam had said that had set Al on notice that something might be really wrong with Sam. Al thought back to that conversation.

"Al, this is where it all started," Sam stated cryptically.

Al was confused. "Where what started?"

Sam answered simply, "Quantum Leap."

Al pointed out, "This isn't New Mexico."


"Not the project," Sam continued. "When I leaped that first time and someone or something grabbed me..."

Al cautiously bid Sam to continue by indicating that he remembered the first leap.

Sam looked into the bar at the man behind the counter and said, "...he's the someone...or something."

Al thought that Sam had gone crazy. He followed Sam's gaze to the bartender who was acting as any other bartender Al had ever met. He was certainly a friendly sort.

When Al heard Sam's next statement, he was sure the Kid had lost his marbles. "That bartender's been leaping me around. He wants me to accept that it's me, but..."Sam seemed unsure for a moment but then stated "...it's him."

Al wasn't sure what to make of this situation, but it continued to get stranger. Sam continued along that bizarre path, "Have Ziggy...oh, by the way, one of the miners is Moe Stein, Captain Galaxy, only his name here is Ziggy. And Frank and Jimmy La Matta are here, too, only their names are Tonchi and Pete. And there's a little guy with the beard named Gushie who doesn't look like Gushie, but has bad breath."

Al knew only one thing, he had to help his friend. He told him, "We got to get you out of here, Sam."

Sam quietly responded, "Every word I've said is true, Al."

Al decided to try reasoning with Sam. Most of the time that worked. He pointed out the illogic in Sam's argument, "You're not being leaped by God or Time or Fate but by a bartender in a coal mining town?

Sam adamantly stayed with his theory. "He's not just a bartender. He is God or Time or Fate or something we haven't even thought of."

Al felt every bell and whistle going off and he was getting really worried. He punched the handlink and called for Gushie.

Sam next asked him "Al, when I leap, do I turn all blue and tingle with electrical energy?

Al answered, "How would I know? When you leap, I go back to the Imaging Chamber.

Sam continued on, "I'll bet I turn blue and tingle with electrical energy. That's what he did when he leaped." A puzzled expression crossed his face, reminding Al of the many times he and Sam had been together, when he'd watched this brilliant man think through problems. "Only no one leaped back in, but that was probably because he was dead."

Al was ready to freak out when Sam said that. He again keyed the handlink and told Sam, "That's it! I'm out of here."

Suddenly Sam had an epiphany, "My God, Al, all those stories of ghosts who have come back to warn the living...what if they're all Leapers like Stawpah!"

Al was surprised by the name, "Stawpah?"

Sam indicated that the name meant Steve in Russian. Al nodded, "I know what it means. I have an Uncle Stawpah." When Sam asked if his uncle had rheumatoid arthritis, Al confirmed it, saying "It's got him twisted like a pretzel."

Sam definitely lost it a bit at that point. He laughed and sat on the bench. It made Al uncomfortable, and even a tad offended. "It's not funny."

Sam just said softly, "Yes, it is." When Al asked why, Sam answered, "I don't know."

Al was now beyond concerned. This leap was like no other that Al could recall. He told Sam to take it easy until he could figure the situation out with Ziggy. He opened the Imaging Chamber door and stepped back into it.

He now looked back at his last words to the Kid. "I'm going to get you out of this, Sam. No matter what it takes. I'm going to get you out of it."

It was a promise he'd been unable to keep. He'd never been able to say anything to Sam again. That bothered him the most.

Now, six months had gone by and everyone was losing hope. It was if it was fated that "Dr. Sam Beckett Never Returned Home." Al's heart broke again. That was the only constant the Kid had since the moment he stepped prematurely into the accelerator. If only the Government's Contracting Officer hadn't contacted Sam directly and threatened to terminate the project for default. Al could have addressed that. Sam, not being familiar with the ins and outs of Government Contracting couldn't. Instead, he'd figured the only way to save his project was to prove it would work. Thus, the night that Al had gone to the Nature Conservancy fundraiser in Albuquerque, Sam had stepped into the accelerator and vanished.

Five year of leaping. Five years of putting right what had gone wrong in so many lives. Now this is how God, Fate, Time, or whatever had repaid him. Al had to admit, he'd felt the connection die. Well, not exactly die, but it had changed. It had become so weak that he wondered if it was just a phantom signal, something that he'd become so used to that he felt it even when it had severed.

Tears came to Al's eyes. He'd let Sam down, just as he'd let Trudy down. He pushed back the tears. He couldn't let anyone see him this way. He found his way to Sam's office and shut the door. It was unlikely that anyone would come down this hall and thus he knew he could let his emotions go. He picked up a picture off of the bookshelf. He and Sam breaking ground at Project Quantum Leap eleven years ago. How young both of them looked. How full of hope.

Still holding the picture in his hands, Al dropped into Sam's chair. As he looked at the picture again, the tears again came but this time, he let them fall. Let the sobs come and provide the release he knew he needed. Unbidden, the thought that had been going through everyone's mind in recent days solidified in Al's mind.

Sam's dead.

The stress of that realization took all the energy that Al had. Al laid his head down on Sam's desk and slept.

XoXoXoXoXoXoX

"Al?"

Hope again! "Sam?!, Is it really you?"

"Al, you're dreaming."

Suddenly deflated again. "I knew it was too good to be true."

"Al, you're dreaming but there is a reality to it too. I'm not there anymore. I wanted you to know. You need to accept I'll never be there again."

"Are you dead, Sam?"

"No. But time has reset. I'm not in your universe anymore. I'm leaping but in another universe"

"I don't understand."

"Things changed. Something I did in that last leap."

Al was confused and angry. "What do you mean things changed? You're GONE."

Sam seemed to be uncomfortable. "Just that things are different in this universe."

"Dammit, Sam, I want you in this universe." He could feel the tears filling his eyes

Sam was distraught seeing his friend in pain. "I can't Al. Time has reset. I can't come back to your world. I can't change the laws of physics. Even for you"

Al knew that Sam was speaking from his heart, but he tried again. "That's not fair, Sam!" Tears fell in earnest from Al's eyes. "This world needs you."


Sam sighed, knowing that although Al would prefer to change things, he would accept the inevitable. "But this world has me. Project Quantum Leap still exists. I'm still leaping. You are even here with me."

Al looked at Sam, confusion written into every line of his face. "I'm with you?"

"Yeah...everyone is here, just like there. But it's...different...the same but different."

Al didn't understand it fully but finally asked him, "Are you...happy?"

"Well, I still want to come home." Al's heart broke when he realized that nothing had changed. Sam still had no way of returning home.

"God, Sam...I'm going to miss you." He suddenly wondered if there was another way. "Will I ever see you again...here, I mean?

"I don't know. I'll try but I don't know if this time is a gift for me. A way to let you know its all okay." Sam paused. "Al, don't let anyone else know about this dream. I think everyone else is ready to let me go. Even Donna. Don't let them know I still exist. I think it will be easier if they just believe I've died. To them, it is true."

"Okay, Sam. I don't like it, but I'll respect your wishes. Aw, hell, I love you, Sam. You know I've always loved you like the brother or son I never had."

"I know, Al. You've been a good friend and partner. That's why I had to do this, enter your dream. Goodbye." In the dream Sam reached over and gave Al a hug. Then he turned and walked into the mist of the dream.

"Sam."

Al awoke with a start. He looked over at the picture again. He found himself inexplicably at peace.

XoXoXoXoXoXoX

The memorial service for Dr. Samuel Beckett, 1953-2000 was attended by family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Many had been surprised to hear of the memorial. The man had seemingly dropped off the face of the earth five years before and now this service.

Al looked over to Dr. Donna Elesee-Beckett dressed in black, a veil covering her face looking at the picture of Sam that had been placed at the front of the chapel in lieu of a casket. Since the body had left the waiting room that final time, nothing had returned. Al knew that Donna was taking this hard, but at the same time, knew she would eventually be all right. He knew she remembered that one time that Sam had returned to her, remembered that night of passion as they had rekindled their love, remembered when she herself had told him to go, wanting to believe his words that he would return to her but somehow knowing he never would. Al wasn't sure, but he thought that Donna had started accepting that she'd never see him again alive that night.

The service was starting. Donna rejoined the rest of Sam's family. Commander Thomas Beckett, resplendent in his dress whites, stepped to the dais at the front of the packed chapel. Clearing his throat, he looked down to his notes.

"My brother was an innovator with deep passions for the world of Quantum Physics. The unfortunate accident which took his life was not what he would have wanted, but it happened while he was doing what he most desired to do." Tom's eulogy went on to describe his brother's passion for his work, and the highlights of Sam's life. He'd also made sure that Sam's unique persona was acknowledged. When Tom was finished, the entire Chapel seemed to be in tears. He stepped down and indicated to Al it was his turn.

Al stepped to the dais, also in Navy dress whites. He did not speak from notes. Rather, he spoke of the man who had been closer to him than any other, the man who had put his all into making the world a better place, the man who had given up his entire life to do what he felt he was asked to do. "I've never met another soul with heart as kind or as loving as that of Samuel John Beckett. May he be happy in his new home."

XoXoXoXoXoXoX

Al walked into his living room. He loved Annapolis in the Spring. Since coming to the Naval Academy to teach five years before after Project Leap was shut down, he'd found a measure of contentment. He knew that Tina had gone to Baltimore to do some shopping and that the house was his for the afternoon. He'd decided to read a book which had just been released on the life of his friend, Dr. Samuel Beckett. He found the author had most of the facts right, attributable to extensive interviews with Sam's family and friends. Yet somehow, the author had not been able to portray the Sam he knew. The Sam he missed.

As he continued to read, the heat of the day seemed to sap his strength and he started to doze. An observer would have seen him slowly drop the book into his lap and relax, a slight snore issuing from him.

XoXoXoXoXoXoX

"Al?"

Pure unadulterated joy issued from Al. "Sam! Oh my Lord, I've missed you, Kid!"

"I'm sorry."

"No, it's okay. Are you still leaping in that other universe?"

"No, I've found my way home. I wanted to let you know. I'm home."

"That's great, Sam!"

"Yeah. It's been a long strange journey. Thanks for being there for me."

"There's still a me in your world, isn't there?"

"Yeah, but in some ways, its different. I can't really explain. I wanted you to know how much I appreciated you staying beside me and fighting for me."

"You did the same for me, Kid."

"I know, but still…it had to be said." Sam's gaze looked down. "Al, I won't be back. This is the last time."

Al's heart felt heavy. "Any reason why?"

"I wasn't sure I was going to be able to do this. Once I got home, my memories of leaping started to fade. I don't think I'll remember this universe soon."

"Oh."

Sam reached over and hugged Al closely. "Al, I love you. After Tom and Dad had passed on, I didn't have anyone like them in my life until we became friends. You helped me to regain my brother. You helped me to be with Donna. I'm sorry I couldn't repay you for those gifts."

"Sam, it's okay. Life here is fine. Tina and I got married, can you believe it? We'll be celebrating our fifth anniversary in a month. I'm teaching at Annapolis. It suits me."

"I'm glad, Al. I…I've got to go now. You're fading."

"Goodbye, Sam. Be happy."

"You too, Al. Goodbye."

Suddenly Al found himself alone in his dream. Strangely, he felt happy and at peace. Sam was home. He continued to doze as his dream took on a decidedly lecherous turn as he began to think about Tina.

XoXoXoXoXoXoX

"Sam? Are you all right? You were mumbling in your sleep."

"I'm okay Donna. I just had a really strange dream. About Al."

"What was it about?"

"Well, somehow this was a different Al than the one we know. This Al had lost Beth a long time ago. She'd left him while he was a POW…thought he was dead. It seemed I needed to go to him and thank him."

"What for?"

"I don't know, I can't remember. But it was important to thank him."

"And you did?"

"Yes. That makes me feel happy. I don't know why."

"Maybe that's all it needs to be." She looked over to the alarm clock. "Sam, its four A.M. Let's try to get back to sleep, shall we?"

"Okay." Sam was happy to have his wife next to him. "I love you, Donna. Let me spoon you." She snuggled up against him and he put his arms around her, holding her close. He suddenly realized why this other Al had been different than his friend, the one with the four daughters. Sam had captured a memory of being in a living room with Beth Calavicci, years before he'd met her. He was telling her that Al was coming home. He had felt a force pull him out of the room as Beth smiled and a picture of Al turned into a picture of Al's family. Time had truly reset. A new reality had developed.

Somehow Sam had always known growing up that he would someday create a time travel experiment. That it was his destiny. Somehow he knew that he had to have a working retrieval program before he stepped into the accelerator, no matter that the Government Contracting Officer would try to cancel his project right before its success. If there hadn't been a glitch with the system that night, one that required him to step into the accelerator to prevent an overload from destroying the facility, he would have waited. He had been trapped in time that night and for the next ten years. However, eventually the retrieval program had been fixed and they had brought him back. All his memories of those leaps were fading but he knew one thing. He was happy he'd set so many things right.

The other Al, the one he could barely remember, had lived without Beth. He'd helped Sam create a life in which he had his brother, in which he'd married Donna. The other Al had sacrificed so much. Sam was happy that he'd found contentment.

Donna sighed. Sam pulled her tighter. They drifted off to sleep again.