Leaping For Lorelei

"Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Doctor Sam Beckett led an elite group of scientists into the desert to develop a top secret project known as Quantum Leap. Pressured to prove his theories or lose funding, Doctor Beckett prematurely stepped into the Project Accelerator and vanished. He awoke to find himself in the past, suffering from partial amnesia and facing a mirror image that was not his own. Fortunately, contact with his own time was maintained through brainwave transmissions with Al, the Project Observer, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Doctor Beckett can see and hear. Trapped in the past, Doctor Beckett finds himself Leaping from life to life, putting things right that once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next Leap will be the Leap home." – Deborah Pratt, Quantum Leap

July 21, 1999, Stallion's Gate, New Mexico

Admiral Al Calavicci sat in his office at the Project, lazily sifting through old pictures and yearbooks, just remembering. He didn't really know why he had this sudden compulsion to go through his stuff until his hand found a picture he thought he'd gotten rid of long ago. It was of a girl, a junior in high school (but only 16), sitting on a bench outside of the orphanage Al had been in and staring at the sky. Although the picture was black and white, Al still remembered the colors. Her shoulder-length, wavy brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail, her dark blue eyes following the clouds. She had been wearing a grey t-shirt and jeans that day, being kind of a tomboy, and had been paying no attention to Al or anyone else around her when he had snapped the picture.

Though he didn't generally take to spying on girls rather than turning on the "Calavicci Charm", this girl had intrigued a 17 -year old Al. She'd liked him, he knew it, and he had thought her cute. Something had forced Al to keep his distance, though. She had reminded him so much of his sister, Trudy, he wanted to stay away so he could try to forget about what his sister was probably thinking in the mental institution. The girl in the picture was on the verge of being taken away, too. She talked to herself and was always a good bit away from everyone else, and the guys running the orphanage were eager to get another kid off their hands. They didn't have to worry long. She committed suicide that Christmas, telling everyone in her note her gift to him or her was going away. The body was found at the bottom of the well near town hall. Her name had been Lorelei, and Al had taken some of the blame upon himself for her death.

Sighing, Al forced himself back into the present. If Beth, his first wife, was his true love, Lorelei was his semi-true love. Maybe part of it was never actually being with her, or maybe just her resemblance to Trudy, or if her unique way of looking at things was something to be treasured rather than scorned.

He stretched as he stood up from the desk, stifling a yawn. Let's get this done, he thought as he made his way into the Waiting Room to talk to the Leapee.

When he arrived, the newest occupant of the Waiting Room seemed unfazed. The body of Al's best friend, Sam, sat on the table, swinging his or her legs back and forth casually. "You haven't changed." He or she said after a quick glance at Al.

"What do you mean? You know who I am?" Al tried to keep his voice calm, but his utter shock at the statement had stolen his barriers.

"You're Al Calavicci."

"Yeah…"

"You don't know who I am? I mean you don't recognize me?"

"No, you look like someone else to me right now."

"Oh. Let me help you out, sailor." The sentence was accompanied by a smile that lit up Sam's whole face in an innocent way only two people Al had ever known could pull off.

"Lei? Uh, Lorelei?"

"Yeah. Wait, huh? You called me that?"

"More in my head than to your face, but yeah."

"Oh. That sounds familiar, but I can't seem to remember. My mind's a little, uh…"

"Swiss-cheesed?"

"Exactly!"

"You'll feel that way for a bit, but you'll start to get your memory back soon."

"Ok. So, judging by the looks of you, what's happened in the past forty years?"

"Um, I joined the Navy, guess your teasing paid off, fell in love, got married, did two tours is Vietnam, there's going to be a war there, was a POW for eight years, got divorced, went around the moon, got married four more times, met Sam, started working here…" Al had seen her (his?) face fall slightly at the 'married' bit, but kept on going as if he hadn't noticed. "You're going to stay here, in the Waiting Room, for a little while and then you can just reassume your life like nothing happened."

"Okay, if you say so."

"How old are you right now?"

"Sixteen. You're seventeen. We still hardly talk, and I've been working on my Christmas present for everyone."

"Don't do it!" Al gasped out.

"You didn't like my gift?"

"I hated it."

"Oh, well what should I give you?"

"One of your little sculptures, I always admired those."

"Okay, I'll get working as soon as I get back."

"Sounds good, I'll be back later."

"See you then."

Al smiled back at the kid. "Yeah."

After he left, Lorelei continued to swing her legs. "He's still the same Al. But what he's done… wow… makes me wish I had the nerve to talk to him… You know, younger him. Well, of course I know he goes on to better things, but it wouldn't feel bad to say: 'I know him.' When he's on TV. I could say: 'He helped me out when no one else would.' No one would hear me, but you would. I would, I mean. I could hear myself say it and feel proud to have been a small part of his life."

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April 5, 1951, New York, New York

Al's breath left him when he saw Sam. He looked just like her. "Lei…"

"Oh, hi, Al." Sam said, turning from the window. "This girl has a simple life, I think I'm enjoying this Leap."

"Actually, Sam, it's not that simple. Do you know what time it is?"

"Why?" He looked at the clock on the wall behind Al. "Um, it's one-thirty."

"That explains it, everyone's in school right now. Lei must have been sick or faked sick or something. As soon as it hits two forty five, you're going to have to face the insufferable noise of orphans."

"I'm in an orphanage?"

"Yeah, the same one I was in in '51. Your name is Lorelei Cadigan, and you're sixteen. You're perceived as slightly insane and talk to yourself more than other people. This Christmas, Lorelei is going to commit suicide, but I think I know how to fix that part. You're actually here for James Belli, one of the younger boys, he's eight, and at the candy store a few blocks from here there's a robbery. Because he was a witness, he was killed."

"Do you play into this?"

Al laughed. "It's funny you asked. See, Lorelei had that much," he held up his thumb and pointer finger close together, "of a crush on me."

It was Sam's turn to laugh. "Only that much?"

"No, but I never talked to her, so I like to pretend it was that way so I don't feel so bad. She was Trudy without Downs and with that pinch of insanity."

"Maybe you should have been friends with her."

"Sam, have you looked at yourself? I couldn't be 'friends' with a girl like that!"

"You could have tried. If she liked you, would it have made a difference?"

Al sighed. "No, probably not."

"Then I'll talk to younger you later while I'm looking for James. I have no idea what he looks like, anyway."

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July 21, 1999, Stallion's Gate, New Mexico

As soon as Al left Sam he basically bolted for the Waiting Room, but when he was halfway up the ramp he spun on his heel and ran to the cafeteria to grab Lorelei a sandwich. Wait, no, not a sandwich, he thought, mac and cheese would be better. She loves that stuff. Al snatched a cup of mac and cheese off the counter and a bottle of water out of the refrigerator. When he was back at the Waiting Room door, Al did something he'd never done before, knock. He knew she couldn't hear him, the room was soundproofed, but he knocked anyway. "Hey, Lei," he said, walking in.

She smiled brightly at him. "Hi, Al! Can I have some clay?"

"Well, you can't really keep whatever you make, how about some mac and cheese?"

"Mac and cheese…" Lorelei was suddenly withdrawn. "I haven't eaten any since…"

"I made you that bowl the night everyone else was at the semi." Al finished. It had been a friendly gesture, as Lorelei was helpless in the kitchen and they had been the only two in the orphanage that night, but they had also shared a friendly dance to a song on the radio. Key word there is 'friendly'. It had meant nothing, but had made Lorelei's eyes brighten so that Al had to tighten his resolve not to try anything on her.

Lorelei's stomach growled. "Hand it over…"

Al chuckled. "Here," and passed the mac and cheese to Lorelei. "What do you remember about James Belli?"

"Oh, that kid?" She laughed humourlessly. "He is a loner. Sits at the edge of the woods I run in every day. But he has fun, kind of like me. He isn't crazy though, he just prefers being alone. If I remember right, James has got a major sweet tooth, too. And the orphanage only lets him go to the sketchy candy store that always gets mugged. It's like they want us to die."

Al's face clouded as he remembered the carelessness they had sometimes been treated with. "Yeah. Especially the ones who didn't fit in."

She nodded. "Especially us."

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April 5, 1951, New York, New York

Sam strolled through the backyard of the orphanage, searching for a face that resembled Al's. Sam was wearing a deep purple blouse and jeans, and had been utterly relieved when he had found Lorelei didn't own many dresses. Then he saw him among a group of boys playing baseball with a can one of them had crumpled and a long stick. Al was pitching, and Sam had an inclination to join his team. They did seem to need a shortstop. "Mind if I take short?"

Seventeen-year-old Al Calavicci whirled to face him, a look of shock on his face. It was quickly replaced by humour, though. "If you're not too good for us, Miss Starting Shortstop," he said sarcastically. Lorelei plays shortstop? What would she say?

"I don't think so…"

Al's face softened slightly, and Sam knew he'd said the right thing. "Well, hop in. We don't have all day." Sam fought back the urge to say 'Yes, Sir' to the future admiral and ran out to his position, avoiding the strange stares he received from the other players.

After a few pitches, it was obvious Al had skill. Major skill. He struck out the first two batters with ease, and the third flied out to right. But that had been intended. High outside pitch? What are you going to do with that? But the batter had had two strikes, so he'd had no choice. And after r going to the bench and watching the other pitcher, Sam migrated over to Al. "Can I hit off you instead?"

"You think you can?" No, Sam thought, but hey, maybe he'd get lucky.

"Maybe."

"Grab a stick and we'll see." He indicated a small pile of bat-sized sticks behind "home plate", which was a Frisbee. Sam grabbed one and went back to Al.

"Alright, I'm ready."

"Sounds good to me." Sam silently prayed for a change-up, but no luck. The first pitch was low and inside, a screwball, and he watched it go by. "Hmm… What would you call that?"

"Watching the first pitch?"

Al laughed. "For that one I'll give you a ball, it was close. But only this one!" After a few more pitches Sam hit one over Al's head, and he pretended to jog the bases after hitting a home run just as Admiral Calavicci appeared through the Imaging Chamber Door.

"Are you… hitting on past me?" He said, screwing up his face in a puzzled expression.

"No," Sam muttered, "I'm playing baseball."

"Yeah? Well Lorelei's good, so don't go and ruin her rep. Have you talked to James?"

"Aw, no! I forgot."

"Well, he's over by the trees. According to Lorelei, he's pretty compliant, so just go and tell him not to get candy tomorrow."

"Only that? Al, I've got to be here for something more." The 1951 version of Al noticed the one-sided conversation and interrupted.

"You ok, Lorelei?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah, I, uh,"

"Say you forgot something and are trying to remember," present-day Al advised.

"Forgot where I put my book. I'm just trying to remember."

"Oh," young Al walked over. "Well," he said, after some hesitation, "I would help, but I've got to get back to the game, sorry."

"No problem." Sam and the hologram looked after the teenager.

"I wanted to help." Al said, talking around his cigar. "But as I told you, I didn't want to get close to her because of Trudy."

"You were afraid of losing Lorelei, too?"

"No. I was afraid of failing her. Trudy needed me, but I wasn't there. I didn't want the same fate to meet Lorelei."

"Hate to say it, Al, but I think you did fail her by not being her friend."

"How was I supposed to know?" Al's voice rose. "I was seventeen, Sam! I thought if I stayed out of it it wouldn't be my fault!"

"No self-pity right now." Al looked at Sam in disbelief, but he cut his friend off before he had a chance to say anything. "I'm going to get you two together."

"What?" He was still yelling. "I already stopped her from committing suicide, so why do you need to do that? Just tell James not to go to the candy store tomorrow and we can Leap outta here!"

"You two belong as friends. I'm not even Lorelei and I can feel that. Why don't you want me to help you?"

"Because that means I need help. And we can't change our own lives anyways. Don't you remember Beth? The love of my life you didn't tell to wait for me because of the rule? Huh, Sam?"

"This won't drastically change your life, it's mainly for Lorelei.

"Sam, it's a rule you made! Let this go!"

"No, I'm saving Lorelei, okay?"

Al released a breath of frustration. "Fine, look, do what you want, I guess, but don't mess things up for James, okay?" He punched in a code on the handlink and stepped through the Imaging Chamber Door, closing it with a metallic thud.

Sam walked over to the blonde haired boy sitting on the tree stump by the woods. He knew even if he saved this kid, he wouldn't Leap. Even if Al wouldn't admit it, Sam was here to make sure younger Al and Lorelei ended up friends. So Sam saw no problem with knocking one item off his list. "Hey, James."

He closed his book, keeping a finger in to mark his place. "Hi. You're not running today?"

"Running?"

"Yeah. Through the woods?"

"Oh, not today. I'm feeling a little tired."

James nodded. "What's up? Don't mean to be rude, but I kind of want to finish my book."

"Sorry, I just wanted to let you know I don't think you should go into the candy store tomorrow. I overheard some guy saying it 'would be scary'."

"This was a real guy? Not your imaginary people?"

"He was real. Promise."

"Ok, I won't go tomorrow. Thanks."

"No problem. Enjoy the book." Sam walked back off the in direction of the building, wondering how to approach Al. He'd never asked out a guy before. At least, that's what it was no doubt going to feel like.

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July 21, 1999, Stallion's Gate, New Mexico

"Admiral?" He looked up from his desk to see Dr. Verbeena Beeks, the Project psychiatrist.

"What's up?"

"Ziggy has just informed me that the Leapee was considered mentally ill?" Shinola, Al thought. I wanted to keep Beeks away from Lei.

"Uh, yeah. People said that."

"And why haven't you let me in to see her?"

"Because I didn't think it was necessary."

"I understand you want to protect her, Admiral, but talking to me would only make things better."

"You didn't know Lei! All she wanted was for nozzles like you to leave her alone!" Al stopped his rant, realizing what he had just said. "I'm sorry, you're not a nozzle. I just…"

"I know. Would it be ok if I talked to her?"

"I guess. But can I let her in on it first? So she doesn't feel attacked as much?"

"Of course."

Al smiled tightly. "Thanks."

"A… shrink? I thought you were here to protect me!" Lorelei looked toward the floor. "Was I wrong?" Al was about to answer, but didn't have to. "No, you weren't, it's for the best. You're not even in your own time." She sucked in a breath. "I know, but… Just talk to the shrink, ok? Yeah, ok." Looking back up at Al, Sam's face seemed to have been worn out by that short conversation. "I'll do it. Talk to her, I mean."

"Thanks, Lei. Who knows, maybe it'll help."

"Yeah, maybe."

"Hi, Lorelei, I'm Dr. Beeks, but you can call me Verbeena."

Lorelei looked at the ground for a beat, and then stared Dr. Beeks straight in the face. "Hi."

"I just want to talk to you. No evaluations or anything, though I will tell the Admiral if anything seriously wrong pops up that could affect you getting home."

"What if… what if I don't want to go home? Hypothetically."

"It wouldn't make much of a difference. According to our research, when you go home you will eventually make it to this time." Dr. Beeks felt no need to bring up the suicide issue. She knew Lorelei had previously been considering it, but she also knew Al had pretty much fixed that for her and Sam was working on making it a sure thing.

"Oh. So I could end up here? Eventually?"

"It's highly unlikely, unless you were to be at the top of a field we deemed necessary for this place to function." Lorelei nodded. "So, what do you want to do when you're older?"

"Criminal justice," she said immediately. "Though I'm not sure exactly what, I love trying to get into get into people's heads, solve problems, that kind of thing."

Dr. Beeks nodded, smiling on the inside. "I know exactly what you mean. Maybe you could be a profiler." Something we could use on the Project, she thought, but decided not to say anything. "People say you talk to yourself."

"I do! But it's the only thing not 'normal' about me. Unless you consider being unsure of yourself abnormal."

"Most certainly not. I think you're perfectly normal, but your reputation precedes you. I'm sorry if my asking was offensive."

"It's ok. Everyone asks." She looked back down. "But it's made me more closed off and easily prodded. Is that crazy?"

"No, it's just about normal. Your thoughts are different, though. But I think it's fine. You just like to live in your own worlds where everything is ok, am I right?"

"Yes."

"Ok, thank you Lorelei, I'll leave you be now."

"Alright. Bye."

Dr. Beeks smiled. "Bye."

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April 5, 1951, New York, New York

Sam's eyes quickly scanned the lunchroom-area-thing; he wasn't really sure what to call it, exactly, a cafeteria, looking for Al. Judging by the information he had of Lorelei, she was not the person to go up to someone, especially someone she liked, and ask to sit with him. But maybe she would be clever enough to sit alone in the corner by the someone-in-question's table and hope he noticed her by herself. And so Sam sat, his back against the wall, picking at his food; plastic might be a better word for it.

Sam started when a voice materialized next to him. "Mind if I join you?" It was Al, but the wrong one.

"Actually I'd prefer if Bingo over there joined me, but hey, I'll take what I get."

"Come on, Sam, get your facts right! I'm not called Bingo until the Navy." Al looked vaguely insulted that Sam would get it wrong. "But I guess you are Swiss-Cheesed."

"Sorry, I was just trying to make it a little easier to distinguish between the two of you."

"True." Al shrugged. "Well, Ziggy says there's a 86.5% chance if you get Lorelei and I to be friends, you'll Leap."

Sam fought back an 'I told you so', and instead went for "Alright, what made past you tick?"

Al muttered his answer, but Sam could still hear it. "Lorelei."

"Besides me, because I'm probably acting pretty weird right now to you- uh, him."

"Then baseball, um, getting out of the orphanage I guess, music, dancing, that sort of thing. Honestly I don't really remember."

Sam thought for a minute, and then asked excitedly, "When's Lorelei's next softball game?"

"Uh, hang on," he smacked the handlink, causing it to squeal. "Saturday she's got a tournament."

"Maybe I could invite you, and afterward we could go to dinner or something?"

"That's very flattering, Sam, but I'm with Tina right now, and I don't think she'd appreciate it if we started something."

Sam couldn't hold back his laughter. "Yeah, ok, you go hang with Tina."

"Will do! See you later, Sam!" And with that he closed the Door to the Imaging Chamber.

He barely got a minute of peace before the younger Al walked over. "What's so funny?"

"Oh, uh, just remembering something an old friend told me."

Al nodded, seeming to understand. "No good family memories, huh?" Realizing he knew nothing of Lorelei's family, Sam just shook his head. "Yeah, my parents were okay, but I really just miss my sister, Trudy."

"Trudy?" He had heard the story before, but Sam would bet Lorelei hadn't.

"Yeah, she is a few years younger than me. She, uh, was sent to an institution when my dad died. She has Downs."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Maybe when I'm in the loony bin I'll meet her." Sam had meant to joke, but had accidentally struck a nerve.

"Don't ever say that! You don't deserve it and neither does Trudy!"

"Sorry, I didn't mean to…"

"I know, I know. It's just… so hard to think about how she might be feeling, all alone."

Sam put his hand over Al's, slightly reluctantly, but after Leaping into women before he'd gotten used to it. "I know I could never replace your sister, but maybe the two of us have something in common."

"Huh?"

"Hate to start on a pity party, but we're alone, we need someone, and we see you need someone too. I bet she wouldn't want you to not live your own life because you were worrying about her."

It was clear Al was on the verge of tears. "I've known you're like her from the start. That's why I stay away from you if I can without driving you away. I don't want any reminders."

"You're never going to forget about your sister."

"No, no I'm not. Do you want me as a friend?"

Sam nodded. "A lot," and felt the sensation of Leaping surround his body.

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June 10, 2110, District 12

"And may the odds be ever in your favor!" Sam's eyes widened as he stared out over a large town of people, gathered in clothes he normally associated with Elk Ridge. They all touched the first three fingers of their left hands to their lips and raised them toward him and a brown haired girl standing beside him. Al stepped out of the Imaging Chamber Door. "Sam, you've Leaped into the future!"

"Oh, boy."

Epilogue

April 5, 1951, New York, New York

Lorelei's eyes widened, then closed as she felt Al's lips against hers. She had no idea how this had come to be, but had a feeling it had something to do with the older Al she'd met briefly in the Waiting Room; at this point, she could care less. He pulled back, and Lorelei's good mood dropped a fraction of a percentage. "Everyone just saw that, didn't they?" He asked, grinning.

Glancing around, she realized they were in the corner of the lunchroom. "Do this with your hand." She put her fingers in a 0 position. "That's how much I care. Zero percent."

Al laughed. "Well, I guess we should slow up a bit…"

Lorelei fake pouted. "The great Al Calavicci is shy?" In response Al punched her arm, and she punched back.

Lorelei never commits suicide.

She and Al have a relationship lasting until they go off to college.

Lorelei becomes one of the best criminal profilers in the country, and joins Project Quantum Leap two years after its beginning.

She marries a Nick Miller, and their daughter is Theresa (Trudy).

Disclaimer: Universal and Belisarius Productions own Quantum Leap. And The Hunger Games is owned by Suzanne Collins. All characters, shows, etc. belong to their proper owners. I only own Lorelei, James, Nick, and the plot. I am not making any money off of this.