A/N: This is a tag to Splintering, which will follow Patchwork (albeit not immediately within either television series), and in which I will try to redeem myself and fix my out-of-characterness without actually changing the original ending to Patchwork. I do not promise to succeed, but I do intend to try, bearing in mind what I've put in place in Patchwork. I had never intended to write a sequel to Patchwork, but this idea kept floating around in my head, so we'll see how it turns out. Also, a quick thanks to Anonymous-cat for answering my random questions about Project Quantum Leap as I tried to hammer out a storyline!
Dr. Sam Beckett blinked for a moment, trying to get his bearings. When his vision didn't clear up entirely, he realized that it was night. Still, it took a few long moments for his eyes to adjust, and he focussed on his other senses instead. Cool, bit of a wind. Wet grass. He could smell the sharp scent of manure, meaning he was either on a farm or in a nearby pasture. He'd thought he'd heard some movement in front of him at first, and for a brief moment he'd thought it was simply the livestock, but at any rate there was now no denying the fact that someone was coming up behind him. Quickly, and breathing rather heavily, but moving noisily enough to convince him that whoever it was didn't intend to harm him.
He was so wrapped up in his thoughts, however, that he'd missed the woman's first words. He turned to look at her, willing her to repeat herself, and tried to place her. Her clothes didn't look dissimilar to those of his own time—or at least they weren't a far cry from the average fashions he remembered. Then again, he hadn't ever paid it that much mind, and it had been a few years. Still, he must be close to his own time.
"Doctor?" the black woman asked, sounding a bit hesitant. She shifted on her feet, and he caught sight of something behind her. Parallel lines of standing stones. Short, most small and weathered, but still visible in the moonlight. Millennia old, he was sure, but with an unknown purpose. It was fascinating. Still, something was niggling at the back of his mind—he knew where those stones stood. Why couldn't he think of it?
The British woman was talking again, and though he snapped his attention back to her, he almost missed her question. Perhaps he would have time to study the stones later. For now, he had to finish the conversation. Dragging his wandering gaze back to meet her worried one, he said, "Yes, yes, I'm fine." It didn't come out clearly, unfortunately. He had a bit of a frog in his throat.
She was frowning at him. "You don't look fine," she declared. "Did something happen or something that I should know about?"
Sam started, feeling a bit nervous. She was observant, which meant she would be a good deal harder to fool. He had to wonder when Al would turn up to tell him what he had leaped in here to do. Carefully, he asked, "What do you mean?"
Before, she'd looked like she'd been fighting back a smile, but now it faded and she looked genuinely concerned. Finally, she replied in a tone of false casualness, "Oh, I don't know. Maybe time went a bit wibbly-wobbly on you?"
Sam stared at her. Did she know? But how could she know? Wouldn't she have said something if she could see him? Well, no, of course she couldn't see him as him; she'd called him 'doctor', and he could only assume that his host was a doctor. He blinked, mentally pushing his thoughts back. "We should be going," he said instead, the words coming out in a rush.
"If you say so," she agreed, sounding almost wary, "but I hope you can track them, because we'll have lost them by now."
Wondering what she could possibly be talking about, Sam tried to quell his sudden bout of panic. He'd been through this sort of thing before. He could do it again. "You don't think you want to—?" He broke off, expecting her to lead them off somewhere. What were they doinghere, anyway? Neither of them had so much as a flashlight.
She looked uncertain. "Oh, um, well…. No, no, it's okay, we don't have to."
He looked at her in confusion for a moment before regaining his stride. "But if we're supposed to—"
Her mouth opened, and a look of comprehension dawned on her face. She was clearly getting more out of the conversation than he was. "Oh! You were asking if I wanted to—? Doctor, if you're not well, we shouldn't…. You said they don't really do any harm, anyway. Right? They just sort of move things around for a bit of fun? You know, keys and things, and people find them later?" She looked at him for a moment as if waiting for some sort of response before adding, "We can deal with them after we sort this."
She wasn't making any sense. Who were they? Were the two of them trying to track down a pair of hooligans, some teenage boys whose idea of fun had gone just a bit too far? If so, why wouldn't they wait until daylight, or at least bring something with them so that they could see? Surely the man he'd leaped into wasn't in the habit of trekking through pastures in the dark with nothing to guide him. And the woman had been running. Or, at the very least, jogging. She was lucky she hadn't gotten her foot caught in a hole, falling to twist her ankle. The ground was uneven enough to make that a distinct possibility.
A bit alarmed because his lack of knowledge about the situation meant he had to tread very carefully, and because the woman now looked less certain of herself than she had before, Sam nodded to her and said, "Lead on."
She looked at him blankly for a moment. "You're kidding, right?" The looked shifted to one of incredulity. "I was following you. I'm not sure where we are."
"Oh, boy," Sam muttered, rolling his eyes upward, silently praying to God or Time or Fate or whatever was actually leaping him through time to send Al to him sooner rather than later. This leap hadn't started off with gunshots, and for that he was grateful, since he didn't seem to be in any immediate danger, but past experience didn't make the future seem particularly comforting. The sooner he found out why he was there, the easier it would be to fix whatever had gone wrong.
He knew all too well what happened if he just assumed that he was here to fix something and acted on that assumption, with Al turning up too late to correct him. He didn't want to risk doing something like that again.
Trouble was, if Al didn't turn up soon…. He might not have a choice.