Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Quantum Leap. This piece of fiction is for entertainment purposes only, and no money is being made.
Author's Note: So I've been watching a lot of Quantum Leap lately, and it occurred to me that it would be interesting to explore certain aspects from Al's point of view. There's a lot of his life we don't get to see. This story follows the Season 2 finale ("MIA"). I've planned for it to be a two-shot. This chapter is a sort of tag to the episode, while the next chapter will lead into the next episode, "The Leap Home."
Georgia on my Mind
At the end of his hologram dance with Beth, Admiral Albert "Al" Calavicci put his hands where his first wife's shoulders were and leaned in to give her a phantom kiss on the forehead. For a split-second, he thought he could almost feel her skin and smell her scent. Then he saw the bright flash behind his eyelids that indicated Sam had leaped again and the imaging chamber, no longer receiving data via Sam's brain waves, had gone blank. The only thing remaining in the room with Al was the echo of Beth's voice, saying his name.
Al opened his eyes and blinked, adjusting to the bare room. Seeing Beth like that, looking no different than when he'd last seen her over 25 years ago…the enormity of what he'd lost crashed over him like a tidal wave, pressing him to the floor. His mental state was not aided by the knowledge that his shortsightedness had nearly killed innocent people. If Sam hadn't figured out something was wrong when he had, Al would have had a couple of unnecessary deaths on his conscience as well.
"Beth," he choked out, feeling tears spring to his eyes. For once, he decided not to fight them. Why should he? There was no one here, making it about the safest place in the world for him to lose it. Opening the door required a command from his handlink. It could be opened from outside, of course, but it was unlikely that anyone would do that unless he'd been in here long enough that they suspected his life was in danger.
So he let the tears flow, his breath starting to come in short gasps and then full-throated sobs as he poured out a torrent of emotion that had been suppressed for far too long. There were so many things he could have done differently, and the regrets played themselves through his mind.
Why didn't I agree to have children? he thought, finding that decision most prominent. I know what my reasons were, but I also knew you wanted them. If we had a kid or two, you'd always have had a piece of me with you. Maybe you'd have kept hope alive longer, for their sake. You wouldn't have been alone.
Al had never blamed Beth for finding another husband. He still felt resentment toward the ambulance-chaser she'd run off with, but he could understand that she was a vibrant, attractive woman who needed more to hold than an MIA bracelet. After all, why had Al himself taken four subsequent wives but for a warm body beside him in bed at night, someone to look at over the dinner table, a ready date for various events? Maybe even someone to share a life with, although that hadn't worked out.
At last, the tears subsided, and Al felt ready to face the world outside the imaging chamber. He wiped his face as well as possible and stood up. He took the handlink out of his pocket, tapped the buttons to open the door, then closed it behind himself. He was sure there was no way to completely hide the evidence of his weeping, but if he were lucky, nobody would comment.
He avoided as many people as possible as he dropped the handlink off at the control room and got ready to go home for the day. After more than a year, following Sam's leaps had become pretty routine, and there were no orders he could give that wouldn't be redundant. Dr. Beeks gave him a concerned look but thankfully said nothing. Al promised himself that he would set up a session with her tomorrow, but for tonight, there were some things he needed to work out on his own. He tried not to think too much, staying focused on getting into his prototype car and getting out of there.
Al was very grateful that he'd told Tina he expected to be in the imaging chamber at odd hours all weekend; there was no way he could face her tonight. He certainly couldn't call her "honey," not after calling Beth that just now. Would Tina notice if he switched to another term of endearment for a few days?
Beginning his brief drive home, Al took what felt like his first deep breath in hours. He repeated the process a few times, feeling progressively better with each one. Not great, but better. Well enough, at least, to think that he just might survive this blow, just as he had so many that had been dealt him before. He certainly didn't feel quite as desperate and hopeless as he had just a little while earlier. It was as though his crying jag had cleansed him somehow, washed out the detritus in the storm sewer of his psyche. Maybe there was something to that catharsis theory after all.
Suddenly, Al realized that he'd never really grieved the loss of his wife. When he'd first learned of Beth's disappearance, he'd been recuperating stateside from his ordeal. At the time, he'd been too weak and dehydrated to fully respond to the news. Afterward, he'd been too numb. Then there were all the distractions of reclaiming his life as a U.S. citizen: establishing his identity, getting several medals and ribbons (and a promotion), annulling his marriage, etc.
For some reason, the memory of the annulment still stung, although he hadn't really seen any other option. He'd had no desire to make Beth into a bigamist, especially after she'd made such a point of having him declared dead. He wondered if she'd felt any regrets or doubts when she'd done that. She must have believed it to be true, and why not? So many MIAs had died, and by all rights, he should have, too. It was only remembering Beth, wanting to see her again, that had kept him going. Nobody else in the sorry excuse for a prisoner camp he'd been kept in had survived as long as he had.
So, in a great twist of irony, he'd returned home with no family but the Navy to welcome him. After everything he'd sacrificed for his country, Uncle Sam had bent over backwards to accommodate him, putting him through MIT and letting him continue his military career in a more technical vein. He'd been well past his prime as a fighter pilot by 1973, and the damage done to his body might have precluded his returning to the cockpit even had he been 10 years younger. His new career path was a poor consolation, but it was all he had to hold onto after losing two loves of his life (flying and Beth). His third love, the Navy, was all he had left.
Naturally, he'd considered trying to find Beth, but by the time he was fit to be released, she'd already been married to this other guy for nearly four years. How could he intrude upon that, make her choose? And, to be completely honest about it, he'd been afraid that she wouldn't choose him. Sure, he'd seen Cary Grant's classic My Favorite Wife (and even theJames Garner/Doris Day remake Move Over, Darling) as many times as anyone, but this was different. Besides, what if she'd had a child with him? There'd even been time for two. As much as he still loved Beth and wanted her in his life, Al couldn't break up a family, knowing from experience how devastating that could be. In the end, he'd decided he was better off not pursuing the matter. Sometimes he still wondered where she was, how she was doing, whether she'd ever found out that he was alive. Had her hair started to turn gray? Did she have laugh lines? Middle-aged spread?
With an effort, Al pulled his mind back to the present. Sam was en route to his next destination, giving Al at least a couple of days to collect himself. That was good because he had a feeling he was going to need it.
"Okay, let's review," he said aloud. "You lost the love of your life again. You were so obsessed with preventing that from happening that you almost allowed people to die who weren't supposed to. And let's not forget that you also betrayed your best friend's trust and abusedboth your position in the government and Project Quantum Leap for personal gain. This is a red-letter day for you, Admiral."
He arrived at his house, still trying to wrap his mind around the day's events. They had opened an old scar inside him, creating a fresh wound. However, didn't Al know better than most that some festering wounds had to be re-opened so that they could begin to heal properly? Maybe Sam – and The Man Upstairs – had been right; he'd needed this. While it didn't change the fact that the experience had hurt like hell, he could accept that it might be good for him in the long run. He just wished that things that were good for you didn't have to feel so awful.
After closing the door behind him and hanging up his keys, Al became aware that he was hungry, and it occurred to him that he couldn't remember the last time he'd eaten. He'd been so distracted by what was going on back in 1969 that he'd neglected such mundane things. He began to gather ingredients for his dinner. While he did so, he unexpectedly felt the need to talk to God. He didn't pray often, but Sam's journey had led him to believe that there might actually be a God, something he'd previously doubted for quite some time.
"God," he began. "If this is you jumping Sam around in time, if you're really paying attention to us, I just wanted to say…I'm sorry. I never meant for anyone to die. I didn't know – but then, I didn't want to know. I saw the temptation, and I gave in. Story of my life, right? I mean, there were plenty of signs I was on the wrong track. When the odds of my scenario were barely over 60 percent, I should have known. The right one almost always has 80 percent or better. I should have treated this Leap just like any other, run multiple scenarios to find the best one. Hell, even Sam knew something was wrong."
He stopped there. Sam's instincts had proven to be generally very good in this whole adventure of cleaning up history's messes, and today was no exception. This time, he'd been essentially pulling Al's fat out of the fryer, when it was usually the other way around.
It was funny, in a way. Not too long ago, Al had been ready to rail against God or Fate or whatever force was moving the universe for all of the ills that had befallen him and for making him relive the worst one of all. Now, however, he recognized the need for forgiveness and was honestly asking for it. He was pretty sure that Sam would forgive him. Knowing the kind of guy Sam was, he probably already had. God was another matter.
"I'm sorry," he said again. After finishing his meal, a sudden impulse led him to find his Bible. He hadn't begun his life as a regular Bible reader – the Catholicism of his youth had not encouraged individual study – but he'd found meaning in Scripture at various times since then. Besides, Bible verses had proven to be useful during several of Sam's leaps, so Al had made a point of keeping one around. The project headquarters had at least one copy of each translation for reference, but he had the New International Version at home. Although he appreciated the beauty of the King James version, he found that the more modern translations were often easier to understand. He let the Book fall open where it would and found himself in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 22, where Jesus was praying on the Mount of Olives. His eyes caught on verse 42: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."
"Your will be done," Al said aloud, pondering. In a way, it made him feel better to remember that even Jesus had not wanted to tread the path that he knew lay before him. Still, He'd left the matter in God's hands, and Al knew he needed to do that as well. Then he thought about Sam, unable to live his own life, never knowing where he might land next, compelled to help others fix problems. Sam was sometimes frustrated and probably missed what he could remember of the present, but he never complained about it. Al felt guilty all over again for his self-pity. Sam was in much worse straits, not even remembering that he was married, yet he pressed on, doing all that was expected of him and more. Al sighed, closing the Bible and busying himself cleaning up from his meal.
I still love you, Beth, after all this time, he thought. No other woman has been able to hold me the way you did. I think you're the only one I could have had forever with.
All at once, he remembered a scene from My Favorite Wife. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, who played his first wife, had finally found a moment alone to discuss the fact that she was alive and what he was going to do about the new bride he'd taken. Going from memory, it went something like:
DUNNE: Do you love her?
DUNNE: Did you tell her you loved her?
DUNNE: If she agreed to marry you, you must have told her.
GRANT: All right, so I did!
How many women had Al told he loved them over the years? More than he could count, certainly. Sometimes, he'd even believed it, but now, he knew that it had always been a lie. He made a promise to himself that he wouldn't say it again, not unless it was really true. It wasn't right, it wasn't fair, and he was going to stop.
Just before he went to bed, he considered the words from Scripture again, "…not my will, but yours be done." He sent up one final prayer: "God, if it's your will that Sam finds a way to change things so that I get to stay with Beth, then great. If not, well, I'll just have to accept that. I promise, I won't meddle like that again. I've learned my lesson. Okay?"
After speaking those words, a sense of peace came over him, and he slept better than he had in days.
Author's Note: Needless to say, I don't own My Favorite Wife, either, and the lines really are based on my memory. The script was written by Bella and Sam Spewack.
Okay, I'm not a total geek about this show, so I apologize if I got any details wrong. Besides, there are a lot of contradictions within the series itself. I'm trying to smooth those out as best I can, when I can't simply gloss over them.