"Circles"

A Quantum Leap/Equalizer Crossover
Copyright (C) 1995 Anne Huff (aka A. Manley Haight)

Ahaight@earthlink.net

SUMMARY: Sam leaps into the body of Control to discover that there is a darker side to this one-time benefactor of Project Starbright, and to fix a relationship with McCall that has been torn asunder.

RATING: NC-17 for explicit sex and implications of graphic violence.

WARNINGS: This story contains explicit sex between consenting male adults and a masturbation scene, and contains discussion of sexual murder and rape.

AUTHOR'S NOTE 1998: The sex in this story is between Control and McCall, mostly in flashback.  Sam and Al are portrayed as heterosexual.  This is the only QL story I've ever done, and one of my first complete stories that makes any sense.  I've done a lot of much better work since in Babylon 5, and am developing some X-Files material.

Flames are welcome and are, in fact, encouraged for psychological study. 

This story is not in any way intended to infringe on copyrights held by any legal copyright holders of the television show "Quantum Leap."  The character of Doris Feldman is mine.  This story may be distributed only with prior permission of the author, and may not be posted to any archive, ftp site, or web page without the written permission of the author.  This story is distributed for the individual personal entertainment of persons of legal age for viewing sexually explicit material in areas where such viewing is legal, and is not subject to purchase or sale by anyone.

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Dedicated to the late Robert Lansing (1929-1994), a fine actor, may he be the recipient of much good karma.

This story takes place between the Quantum Leap episodes "Blood Moon" and "Return: Evil Leaper II", and within an Equalizer universe that is independent.

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Part 1

New York City, 24 Feb 1990, 9:41pm:

Control let out a deep breath, gently kneeling down on the soft fleece rug in front of the fire that blazed to fill the room with unearthly orange and gold light.  The house was dark and quiet except for the steady patter of rain outside, the sound of it very gently overcome by the crackle and snap of the fire.

He was naked, the heat on his body delicious and soothing. This ritual was old to him, ancient in some corner of his being, and yet it renewed him each time, because it always drew upon the fresh and wild earnestness of his sexuality.

He blocked out the day's tiresome events, blocked out the anguish of his relationship with Robert, blocked out -- yet again -- the memory of a single night almost five months ago; a night that had torn his friendship with Robert into jagged fragments and which threatened to tear his very soul into dust.

He focused on the rain outside, the fire in front of him, the soft comfort of the sheepskin fur under his legs and the aching desire of his own body.  His cock ached, his belly ached...all with some leaden intensity that made him tremble. Each time it was so, and each time it was a wholly new heaven, a place of peace/violence, of hate/love, of gentleman/satyr.

It surrendered to the soft wonder of his own touch on himself, the quiet amazement at how his body responded to the strokes and caresses of his own hands.  And within the depths of his surrender, all repressed longings came to swell up and engulf him, until it was Robert himself who engaged the fantasy and brought the orgasm close and bright...

His reality shifted, bringing his awareness into the sharp focus of rage and agony as the orgasm was suddenly deprived him and he was thrust into a body that was not his own, into a room that stared back at him with the utilitarian, metal elegance that marked his mind somewhere; the future.

He gasped, let down from the primal fury of the sexual release denied him, and put his hands down on cool metal; a bed of some kind; a platform raised from the floor and which sported a mirror on the center half of its surface.  He was sitting on it, staring down at the floor.

And when he raised his eyes up to look at the place he was in, he recognized it.

/The facility at Stallions Gate,/ he thought.  /Project Quantum Leap./

For Control had been one of a few to be in a position to fund such a project.  Although he had not been approached by the Project Team (because of his secretive and clandestine profession as World Control, clandestine enough that even the CIA had declined to inform the Project of the Company's existence), he had gotten wind of it.  Curious, he had visited Dr. Beckett and realized in short order that the man was not only not a crackpot, but was probably a pioneer of the kind humankind had never seen and might never see again for many millennia to come.

He had liked the man easily and completely, Beckett's charm and sincerity at once childlike and innocent, but with such a wisdom that Control found himself in awe of the man.  Beckett's close friend and Project Administrative Manager, Admiral Albert Calavicci, was a singularly unlikely-seeming person for the intellectual and puritan Beckett to develop a close friendship with.  One bawdy, the other modest; one flashy and extroverted, the other conservative and deeply internalized.  It reminded him in some ways of his own relationship with McCall...except that it had always been McCall who was the bawdier of the two of them, and Control who tended to avoid intimacies.

He did not know precisely what had happened.  But he knew what Project Quantum Leap was designed to accomplish, and he knew what he was experiencing now as he looked down at his hands and realized they were not his own.

The Project had been...would be...successful.

The Leaping process was not altogether instantaneous; it was not a sort of blending from one person into another.  There was a transitional period, a sort of comfortable, slightly unsteady limbo in which Sam was aware, distantly, that everything was OK.  He was never sure how else to phrase it...even though he never had any real knowledge of the limbo at all except when he was actually there.  Whatever power guided this journey of his, it was somehow always communicated to him that everything was OK, and for those moments he was at peace with it.

And then the new body formed around him, securing him gently, and the peace was gone, replaced by disorientation and doubt and worry as he returned to some physical place, in some physical time.

And this one, while not violent or painful, carried a flame and an urgency all its own.  It was somehow familiar and yet not.  He gasped, struck by it he became slave to the demand being made on him, flooding his senses with a single overpowering signal: pleasure!

He'd Leapt in at the moment Control had left, only a few precious heartbeats away from a delightful, sensuous, utterly wonderful orgasm.  Tense and shivering, he was too close to it, too overcome by the feeling to do anything but submit to it.  His body responded helplessly to the fire of the soul that he now shared a resonance with, and his hands instinctively completed the ritual that someone before him had started.

He came in a rush, a fiery, anguished, release of warm wetness over his hands and belly and a cry of unknowing shame from his throat.

The shame was not his own; neither was the anguish, nor the tears on his face as the release let him go, drifting gently down to the ground, in the house, on the floor and white rug.  He could only wonder:

/What could happen to a man that the resonance I feel with him is this powerful?  I've sometimes shared an empathy with the people I Leap into, but this strongly..?/

He let the tears fall, let the sobs choke him as he cried for a man that he seemed to know was incapable of it.

 

Project Quantum Leap, Stallions Gate, New Mexico, 11 Jul 1998:

The minutes had gone by, perhaps five or ten to his reckoning, and Control had gotten up to explore the room he was in; the Waiting Room.  It had been modified, he saw, to encompass a suite of two other rooms in order to create living quarters. It was easy to get used to the face that stared back at him in the mirrored table.  It didn't seem so bizarre, on the whole, since he'd always had so much trouble associating his own features with the man he was inside that someone else's face was scarcely more difficult to adapt to.

Control had ignored the mirrored table after only a minute or two of studying the face of the physicist and doctor he knew.  The features were only a little older than the ones he remembered, which reassured him he was not too far into the future.  His mind, working on the problem unceasingly, kept reminding him that being placed in someone else's body should make him feel like he was in someone else's body, but nothing about it seemed awkward or unfamiliar.  Yet there were differences.  Beckett's body was lithe like his own, but a little smoother, a little easier in moving.  It was, after all, a younger body.

The restless urge of his sexual arousal was not easy leaving him.  It kept him strung taut even as his mind struggled to analyze his presence in the Project facility.  His reptile brain kept trying to get angry at the frustration of it, trying to rage against a nonexistent enemy for taking away the vital and necessary release of orgasm.  He controlled it with almost subconscious effort, clearing his mind for more cerebral concentrations.

Dr. Verbina Beeks, the Project's chief psychiatrist and general sounding wall, put her hand to the dark plate beside the Waiting Room door.  The computer scanned her handprint, then confirmed her authorization to enter with a soft tone and a green bar of light on the panel.  The door opened quietly on hydraulics.

The new person in Sam's body turned to face her quickly, with caution and intense deliberateness in his body language and in his brown, Dr. Sam Beckett eyes.  Male, she decided, having learned to recognize gender very rapidly.  The differences were subtle; posture, distribution of weight, angle of the hips, shoulders...something, too, about the eyes.  They stared at each other for a few seconds, two strangers trying to see into the mind of the other.  The look the man was giving her was penetrating and focused; very different from the confusion, fear and amazement that she usually saw when she first met new Leapees.  He was very calm, even seeming to be mildly disinterested in the strangeness of his surroundings.  That was not a reaction she had ever seen from any of the dozens of people that came through this room.

She had caught him in the mid-motion of looking at his own hands.  That was not so unusual.  Leapees usually exhibited one of two reactions to their new body; indifference or fascination.  She watched him react to her unorthodox attire, which was a brightly colored caftan in mind-numbing patterns that swirled and danced.

Control stared at her, trying to identify her.  He did not recall meeting this woman during his association with the Project.  She was beautiful, her age ambiguous, and she looked remarkably at home in a lab coat holding a clipboard.

"My name's Verbina Beeks," the woman said warmly, coming toward him.  He shook her hand curiously, his mind clicking.

/The Project psychiatrist,/ Control remembered.  /Al mentioned her once.  She was hired as the facility neared completion; after I had finished my direct association with the Project./

"What's your name?" she asked him.  The tone was almost neutral, with a hint of genuine and compassionate interest. Control smiled at her, wondering which name he should give.

"John," he said finally.  "John Smith."

His tone of voice, combined with the banality of the name itself, caused Beeks to quirk one eyebrow at him.  She didn't believe for a second that he was telling the truth, and he wasn't, to be technical about it.  But the reasons for the deception were much more convoluted than she knew.

"I know all of this must be very unexpected, and I'm here to help you adjust to this new situation," she said.  Control gave her a wry look.

"Unexpected as hell, yes," he agreed.  "But not as strange to me as you might think.  I know you don't believe that my name really is John Smith, but if you were to check my driver's license you'd find that it is, in fact, my legal name."

"Why do you say this is not as strange as I might think?" she asked.  "What do you think I expect?"

Control let out a soft groan.  Psychologists were all the same, really.  Okay.  Level with her.

"I am employed by the United States government," Control said.  "I am from the year 1990, and in the late 1980's I helped fund a government operation called Project Starbright.  My codename is Control, and I provided funds that will help -- that helped -- the Project become Project Quantum Leap, and to eventually come online.  I oversaw the construction of the Stallions Gate facility we are presently in, and I am responsible for the fact that the main terminal room is a bitch of a place to get into even when Ziggy is in a good mood.  To tell you the truth, I'm glad to see that this damned black hole of a project actually works.  I hated the idea of throwing billions of dollars down the drain on yet another far-fetched idea."

Beeks looked at him like he'd just said Lyndon LaRouche was a double agent for Boris Yeltsin and that Willie Horton was his underworld contact.  She would normally have assumed he was delusional, or simply lying, except that he knew too much about the Project.  But she didn't know him.  The two names he had given were not familiar to her.

"Ziggy, please tell Al that I need him in the Waiting Room right away."

"Admiral Calavicci is presently engaged in a grep search concerning back issues of Playboy magazine," Ziggy said.  "He will be quite peeved."

"Just do it, Ziggy."

"All right."

Control chuckled.

"Still the same old Ziggy.  Since she's online, I could save you the trouble of wondering if I'm crazy.  Do you have a terminal or something I could enter a character code into?"

"You should be able to do that through the Admiral's handlink," Beeks said.  "We don't have a terminal in here, and I can't allow you to leave the Waiting Room.  He should be here soon."  Control nodded.  "You said you are employed by the US government," Beeks said after a moment, still taken aback by the conversation.  "Which agency?"  Control sighed.

"It's one you would not have heard of, and I am not presently at liberty to elaborate on its nature.  I am, however, one of the senior officers, and my involvement with this project caused me to become well acquainted with Dr. Beckett and Admiral Calavicci, as you will learn when he gets here."  With this, Control looked down at himself in the mirrored table.  Beeks noted distantly that the image did not shock him, as it did most people, even after repeated looks.

It was after about five minutes that the Waiting Room door finally opened, to admit a casually (if loudly) dressed Al Calavicci.  The man was wearing a striking black shirt with large, white letters splattered over it at random, with white suspenders holding up a pair of neatly matched, black pants.  He wore no jacket, but the tie was a rich, Christmas red, with a single gold tie tack on it in the shape of the letter "A".

"This better be good," Al said.  "I just found a JPEG of Miss July, nineteen eighty-two."  He made an appreciative noise and put a hand to his chest.  "Oh, God, she was great."  Control laughed quietly.

"You haven't changed."  Al looked at him penetratingly.

"Have we met?"  He glanced at Beeks.  "Who've we got here?"

"I never heard of him," Beeks said with a shrug.  "Says he was involved with the Project under the codename 'Control.'"

"Control!" Al blurted, staring at him.  "No way!"

"I can prove it of course," Control said.  "That's one of the reasons Dr. Beeks wanted you here.  Ziggy can verify my access code, if I can just type it in.  You understand I didn't want to say it aloud through the voice interface."

Al nodded, working on the handlink, which blooped and wheezed.

"Here," he said, showing Control which keys to use.

"Ah.  Thank you."  He glanced up to address the ceiling. "Ziggy," Control said.  "I am World Control.  My access code is incoming through your link channel.  Please verify."

There was a very short, but noticeable, pause.

"That code is confirmed," Ziggy said.  "World Control authorization acknowledged.  I'm disappointed in you, Control. We had expected to receive permission to expand the facility grounds this year and your organization has been ignoring us.  I have made an analysis and the danger presented poses only a three point eight two nine percent chance of causing a structural cave in over the next two centuries."

"Don't make your case to me," Control said.  "Take it up with my present-time self if you have to."

"Intellect 404 won't allow me access," Ziggy said peevishly.

"Not much I can do about that at this point," Control said. "Do me a favor and don't talk unless I tell you to."

Ziggy was petulantly silent.

"We should've had you give a seminar in talking to Ziggy," Beeks muttered.

"You really don't know him?" Al said.

"We never met before now," Control said.  "I left before she was assigned.  I recall seeing her name on the hire list."

"Oh, well, no wonder," Al said.

"I see you got Ziggy working the way you wanted."

"I have never functioned in any manner other than the one programmed," came Ziggy's feminine, slightly piqued voice from the ceiling.  Al made a gruff noise.

"Tell that to Gooshie, you big, quantum bit bucket," Al groused.  "At least with you I don't have to go through the routine," he said to Control.

"The routine?" Control repeated.

"Yeah, you know," Al said, gesturing with his cigar.  "I'm not God, I'm not the Devil, I'm not a space alien; I'm just an ordinary guy who helped build a project on time travel.  Can you imagine what people think when they get bounced in here?"

"It's generally very stressful for everyone involved," Beeks injected, looking at Control sternly.  "Even though you are in a position to understand and accept where you are and who we are, the displacement was still abrupt and you are being forced to cope with the aura of Dr. Beckett's body, as well as the awareness that you are now not in total control of the life you left in 1990."

"I'm a little confused by some of this," Control said.  "I had understood that Project Quantum Leap was meant to allow Sam to travel through time.  But what it looks like is that he travels into other people's lives and trades bodies with them.  I assume this is his body."

"Yeah," Al said.  "Originally we were shooting to have Sam travel in his body without the transposition; that was totally unexpected.  On Sam's end, everyone sees you, including Sam when he looks in the mirror.  On this end, everybody sees Sam's body.  It turns out that Sam is Leaping only within the time frame of his own life.  That much we counted on.  But we can't control it as we'd planned to.  We never know where he'll Leap next, or what he'll have to do there."

"'Have to do?'" Control said.

"We think there's a living, sentient force controlling Dr. Beckett's Leaps," Beeks said quietly.  "There's a rhyme and a reason to it, a kind of order and elegance.  He Leaps into someone's life in order to fix something that went wrong in the original history, maybe save someone's life...or let someone die. Maybe fix a relationship, heal a family.  We never know beforehand."

Al nodded.

"Ziggy's been patched up to help us dig into history," Al said, "finding out all we can about the newest place Sam Leaps into.  She helps us figure out what Sam's supposed to do by analyzing the situations and putting probabilities on everything.  But sometimes the real reason for Sam's Leap is something Ziggy didn't come up with, something that Sam just knows by instinct. We've been at it for so long, it's become more than just a second-nature to him..."

"How long has the Project been operating?" Control asked. "What year is it now?"

"It's 1998," Al said.  "We've been up for five years."

"I came in from 1990," Control said thoughtfully, almost to himself.  "The Project won't take off for another three years yet."  He looked up, his expression reminding Al of a thousand things he had thought forgotten, things from the early days of the Project, when Control was more directly involved and Al had been close enough to him to begin seeing the deeper facets of Control's soul.  "What have you got on file about my history?"

Al punched away at the handlink, whacked it a few times, and then stared at it.

"Nothing," he said finally.  "You're still alive in 1998 and the best I can do is get stuff about what you did under your alias; John Smith.  It isn't a lot to go on."

"And certainly not enough to allow Sam to pass himself off as me for any length of time," Control said warningly.  "It's the weekend, so he probably won't have to go into the office, but he'll probably run into people that know me well, like McCall and Doris, and if they get suspicious that something's wrong, it could get hairy really fast."

"I'll tell him that," Al said.  "He's pretty good at handling that sort of thing.  I think that maybe the people not only see the body of the person Sam Leaps into, but some of the mannerisms, too, the voice and stuff.  I gotta go find him, give him some direction to go in.  Uh, what date am I looking at?"

"Um...February twenty-fourth...about nine-thirty at night," Control said, smiling as he considered the state in which Sam must have Leapt into his body.

"Okay, great."  Al looked at him for a moment.  "You okay? You look kinda strung out."  Control smiled again, rubbing at his face tiredly.  He glanced at Beeks.

"I'm okay.  Just a little edgy, I guess.  By the way, if I'm in someone else's body, why does it feel natural?  I'd expect it to be awkward since the proportions have all changed."

"Muscle memory," Beeks said.  "It's still Dr. Beckett's brain, in a physical sense.  A lot of motor skills are not conscious, not all the time.  When you try thinking too hard about your coordination, it'll go to hell."

"Great," Control smiled tiredly, looking down at another man's hands again.

 

New York City, 24 Feb 1990, 9:59pm:

"Sam, you are never gonna guess who's sitting in the Waiting Room -- "  Al broke off as he got a good look at Sam, who was sitting on the floor against a sofa in what was presumably Control's house.  The fire flickered golden across the room, casting dusky shadows.  Sam was shirtless, a pair of black sweatpants on the bottom half of him, and he was crying.

Sam rubbed at his eyes and swallowed to clear his throat.

"Yeah, what is it, Al?" he asked quietly.  He hadn't looked for a mirror; hadn't really looked at his new body at all.  He'd found the clothes and returned to the living room for the warmth and comfort of the fire.  The pain of his body was deep and close to the surface, and he had no choice but to acknowledge it.  He grieved for the man who endured this agony, this deep guilt and regret.  He felt like he might never find the end of the abyss of it.

"Sam, what happened?  Are you okay?"  Al knelt down next to him, wishing he could put a reassuring hand on his friend's shoulder.

"He's...in so much pain," Sam breathed, his chest trying to choke the words away.  "So much grief, I...Leaped in while he was...masturbating.  It was fine for a while...it felt good, but the release was agony, like a dam bursting; a flood of sadness and shame.  I think it's...feelings he couldn't express somehow, and I had to do it for him..."

Al went silent, thinking about the man he had spoken to just moments ago in the Waiting Room.  The contrast seemed too extreme to believe, but Sam was never wrong about things like that; he was too sensitive and too compassionate.

"The resonance is really strong.  I have this...memory...of all the stuff he's been through," Sam went on.  "It's incredible...the sheer depth of it, like I could drown in his grief and never come out of it..."

"Do you know who you've Leapt into?" Al asked him gently.

"No, I...didn't look to see..."

"It's Control.  The guy who helped fund the Project back in 1987," Al said.  Sam wiped more tears away from his cheek.         "Control?" he said, taking a moment to comprehend this.  He got up suddenly, heading for the back bedroom where he knew there was a bathroom.  Al changed coordinates to follow him, vanishing and reappearing in the bedroom as Sam arrived to turn on the bathroom light, and see himself -- see Control -- reflected in the mirror over the sink.  "Oh, my God," Sam whispered.

"He recognized where he was," Al said.  "He took it upon himself to supervise some of the security design features for the facility when we started the Project.  He remembers you and me and Gooshie and everybody else who was on the starting team. He's surprised the Project actually worked."

Sam was hearing this, but continued to stare at himself in the mirror, at the fierce, blue eyes that stared back at him and the lithe, handsome musculature of the man's body.  It surprised him a little; Control had to be in his late fifties at least, possibly even early sixties.

"Why am I here?" Sam asked quietly.

"Uh, we don't know yet.  Ziggy's working on it.  Sam, Control said you have to be careful; you're the highest ranking officer in a clandestine government agency.  You have some close friends who know you really well.  It's impossible for you to try to do Control's job, so you don't go to the office and you don't call people; you sit tight over the weekend and try to figure out what you're doing here."

"Can I get away with that?" Sam wondered.  "If Control's so powerful, aren't people going to wonder if I hide for a few days?"

"Control tells me that that isn't so unusual for him to do; nobody will wonder.  And he also says that there's nothing up in the air at his job right now, and for you to never answer the phone.  There's an answering machine and he says to use that to screen everyone who calls and only talk to people you can deal with."

Sam sighed.

"Okay.  Guess I have to start somewhere.  I probably don't have to do anything, really.  Usually the problems come to me."

That was true enough.  Sam went back into the bedroom, then out into the living room, where the fire still sparkled.  He found the answering machine next to the phone on a table between the living room and the dining room, nestled against the wall. He studied it for a moment before Al stuck his hand through the phone with a gesture. 

"It's already on.  You press that button there to set the answering feature," Al said.  "And make sure there's a tape in it."

"A tape," Sam mumbled.  No one used tapes anymore.  Clunky and awkward.  "How do you know how to work it?" he asked, doing as Al had instructed.  The machine beeped, and a red light came on.

"Used to have one just like it," Al replied smugly.  He looked down at the answering machine.  "You're all set."

Sam realized he was extremely tired, and shuffled slowly back over to the fleece rug in front of the fireplace.

"Do you have any information on some of the people I'm likely to run into?" he asked, yawning hugely and sitting down on the floor against the sofa.  Al used the handlink to access the data Control had supplied to Ziggy.

"A man named Robert McCall is your best friend.  He and Control have been in the business together almost all their adult lives.  McCall's British, born in 1933 to a British military officer for a father and an American nightclub dancer mother. He's a naturalized citizen of the US and he's lived in Manhattan for thirty-one years.  He went rogue from government intelligence service in 1985 and has spent the time since then helping ordinary people on the street.  He uses a nickname he got while working for the government; calls himself 'The Equalizer', and he's reputed to be _the_ person to avoid earning as an enemy.  He lives alone in a posh apartment in TriBeCa.  Control describes him as 'fiercely altruistic and honorable, with a streak of elitism that makes him come off a lot more naive than he really is.'  They have an uneasy truce; Control doesn't try to assassinate him and McCall doesn't compromise the security of the agency he used to work for."

"These guys are best friends?" Sam said, looking up at Al.

"I remember when Control used to talk about him," Al mused, letting the handlink fall to his side.  "You have to remember how hard it is to trust someone in this line of work.  Control can always trust McCall.  That's one of the main bonds of their friendship.  And they just _like_ each other, Sam.  They meshed. Working side by side for so many years and putting their lives in each other's hands creates a bond unlike any other."

"Who else?" Sam asked.

Al fiddled with the handlink.

"Mickey Kostmayer, an independent mercenary on retainer for Control's agency.  He used to be a Navy SEAL, and McCall first found him serving hard time in Leavenworth for killing his partner.  Turns out Kostmayer was innocent, and McCall got him released.  The two of them have a close friendship, closer than Kostmayer's relationship with Control.  But Control's his boss, and they've worked together for about ten years now.  He lives in a brownstone in TriBeCa.

"Doris Feldman, Control's next door neighbor.  She's seventy-four and, Control says, 'sharper than a samurai sword.' They've been neighbors for almost twenty years, and Control confides in her on a variety of subjects.  They have a custom of sitting outside on Control's porch, drinking coffee until the wee hours when the mood seems to strike.  Fortunately for you, the weather's too nasty outside for that.  Oh, a bit of trivia Control gave me about his relationship with Doris; she's always pruning his bushes and he's always shooing her away."  Al giggled.  "She makes fun of him being a 'sourpuss' and he just tolerates it because he likes her so much."

"Is there...anything going on between them?" Sam wondered.

"Nah, Control says it's strictly platonic.  He says she acts like his mother half the time and his fairy godmother the other half."

Sam laughed a little.  Doris sounded very likable.

"Does Control have any family?  A wife or girlfriend?"

"He says his wife and son were killed a long time ago, and he doesn't have any living relatives except a goddaughter named Evette.  She's living in Brazil right now, so Control doesn't expect you to meet her."

"No current love interest?" Sam asked.

"You know, when I asked him that he got this really weird look, and then he said no..."

"What kind of a weird look?"

"You know...I'm not sure," Al said quietly.  "It was sort of like the kind of look I think I'd get if somebody asked me what had happened to Beth..."

/Maybe he loved someone and she was killed or went away,/ Sam thought.  /Maybe that's why he's hurting so much./

"I think I'd better go get some sleep," Sam said, getting up to stretch the kinks out of his back.  "I'll think better in the morning after I've settled in a little."

"Good idea, Sam.  I'll go see what else Control thinks you might need to know, and put our heads together about why you might be here."

"Goodnight, Al."

 

Project Quantum Leap, Stallions Gate, New Mexico, 11 Jul 1998:

"Gooshie told me I'd find you out here," Al said, coming up to stand next to Control on the concrete balcony of the facility's fourth floor.  Control was leaning on the wall, looking out over the desert expanse.  The sun had set behind the mountains behind them, turning the opposite hills into molten gold.  "How'd you get out of the Waiting Room?"

"I told Ziggy that if she didn't let me out I'd chop the Project budget in half for the 1992-93 fiscal year.  Must've blown a circuit or two getting her to think over the implications of that sort of history change."  He smiled.  "Plus I gave all the right security codes.  I had a hand in the Project, you know."

"Yeah, I remember," Al said with a grin.  The Project was expensive, upwards of one hundred billion dollars already, with a current annual budget of 4.3 billion dollars.  The original approved amount was forty-three billion, which the Senate Budget Committee was unwilling to approve before Control had stepped in to offer the financial backing of The Company.  "I remember you practically running the place for eighteen months and getting on Sam's nerves."

"Sam's a good man," Control said equably.  "He's one of the few people I would trust in the position of virtually taking over my life."

"How come you hardly ever talked about McCall, when he was your best friend?" Al asked.  Control glanced at him sidelong, then decided he wasn't being attacked.

"McCall was one of my most elite agents," Control said.  "I was protecting him professionally and personally by giving out as little information as possible about him.  At the time I met you, he had also gone rogue; a very dangerous and difficult situation for both of us.  I was obligated to conceal the matter entirely, though didn't with you.  I liked you and I felt I could trust you with what I did reveal."

"You can trust me," Al said seriously.  "And what do you mean you liked me?  Don't you still?"

Control smiled at him enigmatically.

"I haven't seen you in nine years."

Al rolled his eyes.

"Don't start with the time traveling jokes," he implored. "I get confused enough as it is.  We decided early on in the Project to allow our end and Sam's end of the Leap to run on synchronized realtime; if I could just jump in anytime during his Leap, we'd never be able to keep the stuff coordinated and all of us on the Project end would go nuts within a few days."

"So, for example, while he's sleeping for eight hours, you spend eight hours on this end twiddling your thumbs."

"More or less, yeah."

"That sounds like it could make for some harrowing close calls," Control said thoughtfully.

Al shrugged.

"It always works out in the end."

"So what's Sam doing now?"

"Sleeping," Al said, amused by Control's mild surprise.  "I told him what you told Ziggy about McCall, Kostmayer and Doris, and to sit tight and use the answering machine like you said."

Control nodded.

"Good."  He sighed.  "I wish there was some way I could talk to him directly...maybe coach him on what to say in certain situations..."

Al blinked.

"You know, there is a way.  You could come into the Imaging Chamber with me.  All you'd have to do is be touching me, and Sam'll be able to see and hear you like you're in the room with him.  It used to be we had to make a complex neurological link, but Ziggy worked out a way to make the hologram field inclusive.  That way now people just have to touch me to be included in the field.  We could try it later, when he wakes up."

"Excellent, I'd like that," Control said animatedly.  "It would be a lot easier if I could be there when he talks to people.  I know that I talk differently from him and there are people who would be suspicious of that, particularly McCall and Kostmayer."

Al got a wry look on his face.

"You know...Sam said that when he Leaped into your body, you were in the middle of jerking off."

Control looked away, sheepish and amused.

"Yeah...well, close to the end, really."  He rubbed at his face.  "I left right before orgasm; I didn't even get to come. Urm...that's a terrible thing to do to a man."

Al laughed.

"No wonder you were so strung out when I met you in the Waiting Room," Al said.

"Yeah.  Did he enjoy it, I hope?"

Al hesitated.

"I wanted to ask you about that, actually.  When I went to check in on him, he was crying.  He told me how he'd come almost right after Leaping in...and that the orgasm let loose a...flood of emotions.  He said...pain, and grief and shame.  They weren't his feelings.  He thinks they were yours.  There've been times before when Sam retained a sort of link with the people he Leaped into, an emotional resonance, he calls it.  The one with you is real strong for some reason.  I have to tell you, I've never seen him that upset.  Whatever it was he tapped into in you, it really affected him."

Control was staring at him with Sam Beckett's eyes, with the cold, penetrating eyes that Al remembered from years ago, when Control had been a daily, hot wildness in his life.  Finally Control looked away.

"I don't want to talk about it."

"This might have something to do with why Sam Leaped into you," Al said gently.  "If you don't help us Sam could do something that will make it unfixable, whatever it is.  Ziggy can't come up with any theories because your life is so secretive.  Sam can only go around blind for so long -- "

Control turned away from him to start walking back toward the entrance of the facility.

"I said I don't want to talk about it, Al," Control said, and went inside.

 

Control's house, New York City, 25 Feb 1990, 11:44am:

Sam was a little surprised to find out what time it was when he awoke.  He was still a little dazed that his Leap so far had been so uneventful compared to other Leaps, where he seemed to spend every waking moment on the move, struggling to think, to do the right thing...

But the house was quiet, the light outside pale gray because of the rain and cold.  He sat up in the bed, letting himself savor the stillness and the calm.  The bed was warm under him, the covers soft.  The room itself was shadowed in shades of gray except for the digital clock on the nighttable, which had green numbers.  The rain pattered gently against the bedroom window.

He started slightly as the central heating came on with a low thump, and began to blow warm air into the room.  He wondered how long he was going to be in Control's life, considering that nothing had happened so far.  Control and Al were pretty good friends.  Maybe the Leap had nothing to do with him at all.  He wouldn't have even thought of that except for his precedent- setting visit into the rather candid life of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, in which they had ultimately learned that the real reason for the Leap was simply so that Al could benefit from Dr. Ruth's wisdom and advice.

Sam got up, determined to take a shower and poke through yet another person's hygiene articles.  With men it was worse; shaving what was basically someone else's face made for a very slow and careful shave.  Having someone else's face to look at in the mirror, with his own personality behind the eyes, was an exercise in identity security.  And that it was the face of someone he knew made it no less difficult.

It led him into areas of thought he didn't care to go.  With most Leaps, he could safely, even productively, speculate about the personal lives and worldly concerns of the people he was trying to help.  But Control was something else again.  The worldly concerns of this man were probably too vicious to imagine, and the man's personal life was beyond wondering.

When he'd met Control eight years ago, he'd been impressed first by the man's intelligence and then by his commitment; it was one thing to promise an advance of five billion dollars, and something else again to actually deliver it.  Even had there been no further money from Control's organization, that five billion would have been enough to get the Project operational if the US government hadn't decided to make an ultimatum: Show us that it works or we'll pull the plug.

Control was a quiet, thoughtful man who did nothing without thorough consideration and planning.  Even though much of the Project's pragmatic application was beyond Control's (and almost anyone's) education, he had shown a ready grasp of the theories and concepts and Sam respected him for his genuine, perhaps even wondering, interest in the Project.

But behind all of that, always softly burning in the man's pale blue eyes was something less than admirable.  The nature of the beast is always visible, and Sam had known, somewhere deep in his gut, that Control's interest in the Project held aggressive, even violent subtleties.  He realized that Control viewed Project Quantum Leap as possessing a potential for almost unfathomable and hideous use as a weapon.

He did not see that side often, and was consistently reassured that Control's other, perhaps equally strong, interest was one of pure and simple enchantment.

A time traveling machine.

Yet the beast was there, and though he had never seen Control express it, he was certain that the man was capable of personal viciousness he could only imagine, and that the other glimmer of sharpness he saw in the diamond eyes was one of sexuality.

Sam shivered.  Sadism, not only relished but cultivated in some respects.

He had been prepared to discover that Control was an evil man.  He was not ready to find out that he was human; that he suffered, that he experienced guilt and anguish and shame.  He almost wished for something simple like hatred or malice.

But he felt none.

He had felt the agony locked up in Control's heart and soul.  He'd known the slow tearing, the burning misery of an indefinable longing and regret.  The trembling fear of shame and guilt so deep it had made him sick to his stomach.  The sober, engulfing intensity of a calm, terrible desire to simply die.

This was not the life, nor the spirit, of a cold and unfeeling man.  It was fire elemental, the water of a thousand seas, the earth of the still mountain and the white rush of wind.

 

Part 2 

He tried to relate this to Al sometime later.

"It's unbearable to be so deeply connected to him," Sam said.  "I keep wondering what else he knows.  Skills and talents...the ability to murder, the knowledge to cause deliberate harm to someone else?  Can my hands kill in ways that I can't comprehend?  Do my muscles remember torture that I've never endured?"  Another question burned, this one more terrifying than the others and also more unspeakable:

/Does he know a sexuality, a pleasure, in violence and violation that I'll never understand?  FR">Murder?  Torture?  Rape?/

Al heard the unasked questions; he knew Control's temper better than most.  Being who he was, Al was easy to talk to about sex, and Control was open and willing to talk about himself.  One night, a conversation had somehow become deadly serious, and Al had listened to Control try to explain the sweetness of killing, the eroticism of tasting blood.  The subject had left him cold, but the telling of it was a rapture that stayed in his mind. Control's heat left the words burned into Al's memory.

"You're not him," Al said.  "You've got your own mind and your own will."

"I know...I'm just...not used to Leaping into someone I've met.  My brother and you...it was different.  You'd both killed people, but you aren't murderers...you didn't enjoy it."

"Where are you getting all this?" Al wanted to know.  "You don't know that much about Control -- "

"I knew it when I met him eight years ago, Al," Sam said softly.  "I could see it in his eyes...the way he moved.  He's a predator, and he takes all kinds of pleasure in the hunt and the killing."

Al glanced over to the side suddenly, as if hearing someone talk to him, and then he sighed.

"Yeah, just touch me."

Control appeared suddenly, his hand on Al's shoulder.  The man's eyes -- Sam's eyes -- were still and calm.  But the soul behind the brown eyes, the set of the shoulders...

"The world has to have predators," Control said, "or the forces of destruction would be too random.  That's being philosophical.  I prefer to just acknowledge to myself that I am a sadist and that I have...uncommon desires."

Sam looked mortified and angry in the same instant.

"Why didn't you tell me he was there?" Sam demanded of Al, who looked slightly uncomfortable.  He fidgeted with the handlink.

"He wanted to hear what you had to say about him," Al said.  "He told me not to tell you."

"Your honesty doesn't change my opinion of you," Control said.  "On the contrary, I respect your situation."  The brown eyes were fierce.  "I didn't ask for this to happen."

"I didn't either," Sam replied with unexpected venom, "so I hope you'll forgive me if I don't do you justice in imitating your life!

Al felt Control's hand tighten on his shoulder.

"I don't ask anyone to bear the responsibility of what I do," Control said.

"What about the people you victimize?" Sam asked angrily.

"They're not responsible for the fact that I victimize them," Control replied.  "Maybe that's why you're here."

Sam's anger cooled suddenly in the wake of this statement. He looked up at Control with neutral curiosity.

"How do you mean?"

"Al and Ziggy tell me that you're here because something's wrong in my life.  That implies that I cannot, or will not, fix it myself according to your history of me.  I can be a vicious man.  I can be emotionally cold, and sexually ravenous in the most obscene manner imaginable.  Maybe that's what created my problem.  You're almost my opposite; gentle, sensitive, completely incapable of hurting or taking advantage of someone, and you're emotionally open.  Perhaps only you can help me because of that..."

Sam only gazed at him for a few moments, once again filled with compassion for the man.

"You're not insensitive if you can feel the guilt and shame that I've experienced in being connected to you," Sam said quietly.  Control lowered his eyes.

One of the things that Sam had always noted as one of Control's most respectable traits was his expressive and energetic use of his intelligence.  He also respected Control for being able to objectively recognize and evaluate his own personality, even if he chose to avoid changing it.  It was a rare display of integrity for Control to be able to acknowledge that his sadism was destructive and wrong, and that no one but himself was to blame for it.

More peculiar was Control's acceptance of that situation -- he didn't want to say easy acceptance, since it obviously was not -- even to the degree of enjoying it as part of him.  He could, if he chose, seek out psychiatric treatment for it.

"Why do you live like this?" Sam asked softly.  "Why do you allow yourself to act the way you do when you could get help for it?"

Control gave him a piercing look.

"As a doctor, I'm sure you're aware of the kind of 'help' that would entail.  People of my particular pathology are not rehabilitation candidates.  We are incurable.  There is no known drug or therapy that could stop what I do and still allow me to do my job.  The only recourse would be to imprison or execute me.  I cannot allow that.  My position in my organization forbids it, and also allows me to avoid it."

"You're saying that you do your job most effectively _because_ you're a sadist?" Sam asked.  His intellect was intrigued.  His heart was saddened.  "That it's your viciousness that allows you to be violent where it might be practical for you?"

"Yes."

/Almost the classic character,/ Sam thought.  /A man of utter cruelty and perversion who understands and intelligently lives with that side of himself, even to the extent of being able to accept it and integrate it into his conscience, and to avoid prosecution in a legal forum.  A Jekyll and Hyde scenario, but with each side having full knowledge of the other's existence./

"As a doctor I also know that no one with a conscience could endure having an uncontrollable monster live inside him," Sam said.  "And you have a conscience.  No matter how much you try to reconcile or ignore that evil side of you, you'll eventually reach an impasse.  You may have already."

"You mean I'm going crazy and you have to save me from myself, or what I might do to someone else."

Sam hesitated.

"I don't know," he said finally.

"I can only wonder what goes through your mind when you think about the fact that I kill people and like it," Control commented.  "I wonder if what you imagine is at all close to what it's really like."

"I'd rather never know," Sam said.  Control nodded, his eyes strangely opaque.

"I don't blame you."

 

Control's house, New York City, 25 Feb 1990, 4:09pm:

Al and Control had left, leaving Sam to contemplate the empty house from the silence of the living room sofa.  After some while, he set to building a fire in the fireplace to try to drive away the eeriness of the house.  He wasn't sure if it was the house itself or the gray rain outside that made him feel that way, but the fire helped, casting a warm glow in the room and across the bare wood floor.

Before leaving, Control had shown him how the house's security system worked, and given him instructions for arming and disarming it.  Control also forcefully warned him to never leave the house without arming the system, no matter how many seconds it added to his departure.  He was also told about the security alarm in Control's car, and how to deal with that also.  While the theft of the car, a BMW, was not meaningful except as a simple vehicle theft, Control asked that Sam try to protect it, since it was one of his possessions.  Sam agreed to do as Control told him.

Control's level of education, self-taught or otherwise, had never been one of the things they had talked about.  But perusing Control's collection of books made him rethink -- yet again -- his opinion of the man he was trying to help.  There was not a great deal of actual literature, and what there was of it seemed carefully selected.  The authors George Orwell and Mark Twain seemed to be favorites.  But also on the shelves were a large number of books dealing with complex and esoteric subjects.  He found volumes on criminal law, psychology, anatomy and physiology, metaphysics and even aerospace engineering.  The psychology texts seemed to focus on abnormal psychology and discourses on sexual perversions.  The metaphysics books covered everything from astrology to Zoroaster, and dealt with such topics as the qabbalistic Tree of Life, alchemy, dreamworking, numerology, and something called "the enneagram."

He pulled out one book; a guide to herbal and homeopathic medicine.  There were several paper scraps marking sections of the book.  One of these that he opened to was entitled: "Extreme Sex Drive, How to Inhibit."  Another of the marked sections was: "Anxiety", and still another: "Anger", and another: "Nightmares."

Sam closed the book.  He wondered if it were enlightenment, or merely desperation, that had led Control to seek out such remedies.  Regardless of the motive, however, the sections Control had marked suggested a more troubled soul than Control had admitted to.

He wasn't surprised by that, either.

Other books also yielded bookmarked pages and chapters.  The anatomy texts had been marked by Control at sections dealing with the circulatory system; the locations of major blood vessels, and the structure of the nervous system.  Much of the psychology books had sections marked on rape, torture, mutilation and lust murder.  One particular page had had a paragraph highlighted.  It read:

"Self-mutilation is not uncommon in patients seeking escape or relief from their own inner torments.  Sometimes that torment is not merely the original feelings of pain and frustration, but also the knowledge of either violent wishes or actual violent acts.  The self-injury is merely another form of hate, this time directed at the patient himself.  He hates what he does, hates himself for doing it.  In the sadist it is, literally, self- sadism."

Sam closed this book also, this time thoughtfully.  He pulled up the sleeves on the shirt he wore, and after carefully examining his arms, found evidence of long-healed scars; slash marks on his wrists; delicate, precise incisions in his forearms.

He pushed the sleeves down again, and sat down on the couch heavily.  He could not imagine being tormented enough to inflict wounds on himself.  Attempting suicide also seemed alien, but Sam realized belatedly that the scars on his wrists were perpendicular, and a man who had researched such things so carefully was surely aware that to truly kill oneself in that manner required parallel cuts deep into the flesh...

He was startled out of his imposed reverie by a knock on the front door.

"Who is it?" he called out.

"It's me, Robert McCall," came the voice back through the closed door.  Sam opened the door to a dignified, handsome man in his late fifties.  He was dressed in a long, cashmere overcoat and a finely tailored business suit.  Sam realized immediately that the call was not social, and that McCall resented, in some fashion, having to make it.  The man's gray eyes were hard and unreadable.  "The information you wanted on my last client," McCall said, holding out a manila envelope stiffly.  Sam took it from him, wondering what the basis for the hostility was.

"Thanks."

"I suppose you'll also be wanting the stuff locked up in my head that should, for the betterment of all concerned, be given to you verbally?" McCall said.

Sam paused.

"If you think I should have it," he said finally.  McCall sighed, a sound of resignation and self-discipline.  "Please come in."  Sam held the door open for him.  McCall entered the house, giving Sam a look that suggested Sam had said something unkind, though Sam couldn't imagine what it was.

/He's going to reveal information to me so classified that it can't even be transcribed,/ Sam realized suddenly.  /I can't let him do that.  I'm not the one who should listen and there are plenty of things I'm better off not knowing./

McCall availed himself of the couch with an air of possession that led Sam to believe that he visited the house regularly, and that Control never held to formalities.  There was something else, something in McCall's body language that made Sam think he should recognize it; it was familiar.  An emotion of some kind...

"I was just getting ready to make some coffee," Sam said. "Do you want some?"

McCall gave him an indecipherable look, then waved his hand.

"Oh, if I have to play one of your games," McCall said irritably.  "Might as well."

/McCall is supposed to be Control's closest friend,/ Sam thought as he went into the kitchen.  /Something happened between them and McCall's upset and angry about it./

"Are you going to release Folor?" McCall asked bitterly from the living room, his voice carrying easily across the hardwood floor.  Sam wondered if their entire conversation was going to be like this.

"I haven't decided yet," Sam replied neutrally.  He heard McCall make a derisive noise.

"No, of course not.  Not that you'd tell me anyway regardless.  We can conveniently ignore the fact that he was a man who had nothing whatsoever to do with your operation although you keep telling me otherwise."

Sam came back into the living room, leaving the coffee to drip.

"I already know you don't trust me," Sam said.  McCall glared at him.  "I'm doing what I have to."

McCall's expression was penetratingly observant.  The look said something like: /There's something wrong with you but I'm not sure what it is yet./

"Don't you always," McCall replied in a sepulchral tone.

/I'm obviously supposed to know why he's angry,/ Sam thought.  /Or am I?  He strikes me as the uncommunicative type, and so does Control.  Maybe this is a communication problem./ Sam sat down in a chair across from the sofa where McCall lounged confrontationally.

"Am I supposed to know why you're angry at me?" Sam asked finally.  McCall perceived it as crass to end all, not to mention condescending.  Both of his eyebrows raised incredulously, and then he leaned forward on the couch to hold Sam's eyes with a look of utter contempt.

"Did you invite me in here to provoke me?  If you did, you'd better know straight away that I am not in a good mood and I just might decide to take exception to your rudeness."

It was an interesting threat.  Sam got the impression it was rarely made, and that it was unwise to annoy McCall too deeply.         "I'm not trying to provoke you," Sam said.  He saw the sincerity hit McCall like a slap across the face.  "I just want to know what I'm supposed to do."

McCall sat back, obviously not expecting a naked appeal like that.  His anger faded to reveal pain and sadness.

"There's an interesting thing to say," McCall murmured. "Asking me what you're supposed to do."  His anger flared again, from a pain too deep to cope with.  He stood up suddenly.  "I think I would rather not stumble around in your moral gray areas," he said angrily.  "Your own cowardice is something I refuse to address."  He moved toward the front door with a determined stride.

Sam got up quickly and intercepted him, holding his arm.

"Robert, please, I'm trying to work this out."  He realized as soon as he touched McCall that it was the wrong thing to do; McCall jerked out of his grasp and fixed a glare on him.  But in the next instant the anger was gone again, replaced by confusion and wonder.

/Who are you?/

"You haven't called me Robert since that night," McCall said quietly, staring at him.

/Don't ask him "what night?"/ Sam reminded himself.  /Just shut up and let him talk it out./  Sam gazed at him calmly, holding the gray eyes.  Meeting the stare was difficult; McCall's soul was in it, every dark night, every death, every heartache and regret and night alone in bed wondering why he was doomed to a life by himself.

"What is it about you," McCall said, frustrated beyond the ability to keep his feelings in, "that you can pretend that nothing happened, that you can even act like I'm making it up?" The rejection was clear in the shaking voice, the unendurable loneliness and confusion and hurt making Sam want to do something to help him.  But he wasn't even sure yet what was going on, and he needed the information badly.  "I suppose it was my own bloody damned fault for letting it happen in the first place, but I didn't suspect anything!  What was I supposed to think after the way you acted all day, the way you looked at me and spoke to me?  I'd given up hope we could ever have anything like that together!  And then...five months ago..."  The astonishment McCall had felt that day came through now with fresh clarity, giving light to his eyes and an awful, tense longing that made Sam's stomach wrench in empathy.  "You came to my room that night and changed my sadness into unimaginable joy..."  McCall looked away, still in awe of the events.  "My God," he laughed, "my God, nobody is ever blessed like that.  I know that what we had that night was no deception on your part, and certainly not on mine."  The voice hardened suddenly, filled with rage.  "If you were going to feel guilty about it you should have thought of that beforehand and at least had the balls to not leave my bed before morning and then pretend for ever after as if nothing had happened!"  The accusation was a vicious hiss.  "Good night, Control, and I hope you have pleasant, guilt-free dreams!"

He left the house before Sam could recover from his shock enough to stop him.  The front door closed with a slam.

Sam rubbed at his face.

"Oh, boy," he whispered.

"This just got real complicated," came Al's quiet voice from behind him.  Sam whirled around.

"How long have you been here?" he asked.

"I heard McCall's little speech," Al said, still solemn.  He looked down at the handlink and punched a few buttons on it.  "I think Control and I are going to have a little talk."

"Al," Sam said.  "Go easy on him, will you?  I know you're not wild about homosexuality..."

Al gazed at him, eyes dark.

"I know the difference between love and lust, Sam," Al said quietly.  "Control will be making the biggest mistake of his life if he lets his relationship with McCall go down in flames. That's why you're here."

Sam looked away.

"I know.  But it looks like you're the one who needs to fix it."

"Don't kid yourself, Sam.  We have to do this together. McCall is going to take some gentleness before he'll warm up to the idea that Control might be able to get serious.  They've both been hurt a lot by this.  Control needs me, but McCall needs you."

"See if you can find out for me where McCall lives," Sam said.  "I don't think Control will be forthcoming."

Al spent a few moments on the handlink.

"That's easy to find; he's a private citizen.  Lives in TriBeCa.  Lemme pull up the number..."

 

Project Quantum Leap, Stallions Gate, New Mexico, 12 Jul 1998:

Control had gone outside again, out on the observation deck to lean on the stone walling and look out over the desert.  It was dark now, the sky clear and black like the blackest ink.  The stars were thick and sharp like a fine splattering of light across the heavens, the brightest constellations blazing in the night as if recounting a history older than man's comprehension.

He heard the door to the facility open, and the footsteps that came out to him.  Al leaned up against the stone next to him.

"We know why Sam's here now," Al said quietly.  Control looked at him.  "A little while after you and I left the Imaging Chamber, McCall paid a visit to your place.  Sam didn't know; he was so ignorant that even his own sincerity and innocence weren't enough to keep McCall from getting angry at him -- at you."

 Control looked away.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Control said.

"It's not gonna do you any good to hold out on me now," Al said, his voice firm.

"I _don't_ know what you're _talking_ about," Control repeated, giving Al a look so vicious that it should have ended the matter.  Al, on the other hand, was no stranger to vicious looks.  He'd gotten plenty of them in Hanoi as a prisoner of war.

With Sam, it was generally enough for Al to be persistent in getting his point across.  But Control was not so malleable or compassionate a person, and he knew that Control would only respect and respond to the forcefulness and fire that Al showed so seldom.

Al reached over swiftly to grab a fistful of Control's shirt and jacket, pushing the man around to face him.

"Five months ago, for whatever reason and out of whatever feelings, you seduced McCall.  The next day you acting like nothing had happened.  Since then you've refused to talk about it and you engage in sadistic mind games with him because you don't have the guts to admit you love him!"

The doe-brown eyes flamed at him, threatening something far worse than violence or brutality.  Control let out a rough growl and looked away.

"Don't act like you understand my position," Control said in a low, edged voice.  "It's insulting."

Al let go of him.

"I know you're ashamed of how you feel," he said.  "It's probably normal, considering your circumstances."

"You don't know how I feel," Control spat.  "You consider yourself a heterosexual man, don't you?  You love women, you love having sex with women?"  Al nodded.

"Sure I do.  I mean, who doesn't..."  He closed his mouth when he realized what he had said.  Control sneered at him.

"That's what I used to think about myself," Control said. "I denied what was happening between McCall and me for a long, long time.  But the truth can only be suppressed for so long, and one night, when I was lonely and horny and in a mood that has characterized my life before -- playfully dangerous -- I went to him and took what I wanted."  His jaw worked silently for a moment, and Al was silent, riveted by the bright, almost feverish glitter in Control's eyes.  The man's voice was guttural and deep; a voice he remembered.  "You and Sam have a friendship like few others.  You share a profession, an intelligence, a sense of matching that makes your lives complete and full.  Robert and I have that -- used to have that.  Try to imagine waking up one morning and realizing that you are in love with Sam and you want to, you have to, have him or you know you'll go insane.  It's been haunting you for months, years, in dreams and nightmares, disrupting your work and your life to the point that you can barely get out of bed in the morning."  Control moved close to him, causing Al to back up one step, and Control continued the slow, pressing advance.  "I'm talking about fucking, Al, I'm talking about making love to him, kissing him, touching him, wanting to know and taste every inch of his body and suck his cock until he comes hot and wet into your throat.  That's what I'm talking about and _don't_ pretend you understand it!"

Control turned away from him tensely, stalking over to the end of the observation balcony.  He looked down at his hand, reminded again of the bond he shared against his will.  He cursed viciously and put both hands on the stone wall, his back to Al.

"You sound like you speak from experience," Al commented neutrally.

"I speak from wanting," Control spat.  "From imagining, from dreaming and aching..."  He paused to collect his breath.  "But the experience is there, too, yes."  He bowed his head.  "That night five months ago was complete...it was everything I'd wanted, everything I could have asked for.  Every pleasure, every delight...the warmth of him against me, inside me..."  He made a pained noise.  "His astonishment was so bright in his eyes when he realized why I had come to his room.  I never saw anything like it before...and haven't since.  When I kissed him it was the fulfillment of his own lonely, aching nights alone in the darkness, the blinding days of emptiness and cold reminders that love could never be ours."  His voice softened.  "But in that night there was no tomorrow, no daylight, no sun telling us to wake up from our dreams.  Nothing but the bed and the warmth and the eternal moment of being together."

Al approached him quietly, moving up to stand beside him at the wall, saying nothing and watching Control move through a lifetime's regret in a few seconds.  It clutched at him like a living creature trying to hold onto its existence, but the pain was too great and it broke through.  Control lifted his head up, eyes tightly shut.  His face was wet, tears streaked down his cheeks.

"I made a mistake," he sobbed angrily, defeatedly.  "I made a mistake and I want my life back to live over again.  Oh, God, how could I have done this?"

"It's not too late," Al said intensely.  "That's why you got us.  You helped this Project come into being, and now it wants to repay a debt to you.  You just have to trust.  Trust us; Sam and me.  Trust yourself.  I know you're strong enough to do this."

"Obviously I wasn't before if you're here now," Control said softly, his eyes open now and gazing up into the star-flecked darkness.

 

Control's house, New York City, 25 Feb 1990, 7:34pm:

Sam had intended to go to McCall's house, to try to do something to heal the rift between him and Control.  But he was still sitting on the sofa where he had sat down three hours before.  There was something gapingly missing in his understanding of the situation; he wasn't Control.  He didn't feel the man's true intent, couldn't empathize with him enough to ever hope to persuade a man as keenly intelligent and fiercely stubborn as Robert McCall.  McCall had known Control for decades; knew his voice and his mannerisms and his demeanor.  Knew when he was lying, and when he was not.

Sam needed Control's help to do this.  The approach had to be Control's, the words had to be his.  The plea had to be his. But then why did Sam have to be the one here, in Control's life?  Was Control so afraid, so anguished, that he didn't have the strength to do it himself?  Did he need the support of Sam to act for him, and Al to be his confidante?  Control and Al already knew each other, though Sam didn't know how deeply.  This Leap had already told him that the relationship was more complex than he had originally assumed.

Control had loved McCall for a long time, loved him fiercely and completely.  It had been a pure emotion, bound in friendship, affection and sensuality.  But the sexual bond was impossible for Control to reconcile.  He could not cope with the shame and fear it brought him to realize suddenly and eternally that he was bisexual, and that the joy of sexual union with another man was part of his nature and his destiny.

And yet he had not been able to escape the sweetness of dreams about Robert, either.  Nightmares, too, tormented him. Nightmares of abandonment, of betrayal and death.  Nightmares of being alone.

Loneliness.

The unexpected ache of it made Sam gasp softly and close his eyes.  Oh, that feeling he was too well acquainted with.  In that loneliness, in that love and heartache, Control had visited Robert in a hotel room during the night, surprising the other man with his presence and then shattering his reality in a matter of seconds.  The night that followed had been the indulgence of a fantasy, the fulfillment of a dream for both of them, everything sweet beyond words until blessed sleep claimed them.  When the dawn broke the next morning, McCall had awakened to find himself alone again.

Sam shivered, wondering what he was waiting for.  It was as if he expected some kind of sign, an event, an appearance of the breakthrough that would mark the place where Control's life diverged from its original path and finally achieved freedom.

The Imaging Chamber door opened in front of him, a moment of blinding blue-white light in the shape of a rectangle.  This time the dark silhouette was of two people entering his world. Control and Al came toward him into the room, the door of light closing behind them.  Control had his hand on Al's shoulder, keeping the physical contact that was required for Control to be included in the holographic transmission that was locked into Sam's electroencephalograph pattern.

"We had our little talk," Al said, the flippancy of the words themselves robbed by the low voice they were spoken with.

Control's eyes were haunted and feverish.  It was a look that Sam could easily interpret; Control was utterly terrified by the thought of confronting his own shame and anguish, and was yet also euphoric at the notion of finally gaining Robert's love and companionship.

"You have to help me," Sam said, directing this plea to Control himself.  "Robert knows you intimately, and I can't possibly persuade him based on who I am.  I have to learn how to be you.  How to talk like you and act like you, to know what you know.  More importantly, I have to speak with your words; you have to tell me what to say.  And, somehow, I have to be able to understand what you're feeling, or the words will be empty."

Control came toward him, his hand still firmly gripping Al's shoulder as Al accommodated his motion.  Control knelt down on the floor in front of Sam, and Al also sank to his knees, a silent witness.

"Al says sometimes you...mentally bond with the people you Leap into," Control said, "that you sometimes hold their memories and talents and skills as a byproduct of exchanging places with them.  You...experienced some of my emotions when you first transposed with me, though I'm still not clear on what you felt..."

Sam looked away from him, embarrassed to tell even the original owner of the emotions about their intensity.

"I only remember them as pure feelings," Sam said.  "Not memories exactly...not in the conscious sense.  I felt...ashamed, overwhelmingly ashamed of something that was true about myself that I didn't want to be true.  I felt aching regret for something I had done that I was too afraid to change. And...longing."  Sam swallowed.  "An empty, desperate longing for something I knew was beyond my reach forever and I couldn't live without.  I wanted to die."

Control sighed, trying to resist the impulse to crush his own response to the familiar anguish Sam was describing.  He intended to heed Al's stern advice:  /You can't rely on old habits.  To break free of this you have to be willing to take emotional risks./  Consequently, he bowed his head in acknowledgement of the pain it caused him to remember, yet again, the wonderful night he had had with Robert five months ago and his subsequent decision to act as if that night had never occurred.

"Al has explained to me how we can conduct allowing me to talk to Robert through you," Control replied, his voice subdued.  "It's something I don't think I would be able to do by myself, but with you as the front, Robert won't actually be talking to me.  And...with both of you here I think I can do this."  He took a deep breath.  "Tell me exactly what happened when Robert came over here today."

He wanted to steel himself against it, but did not.  He listened to Sam relate the conversation, the details of McCall's demeanor, his attitude and body language.  Control could easily visualize all of it, could hear the resonant, English voice speaking to him with resentment and bitterness.

****

Sam got up quickly and intercepted him, holding his arm.

"Robert, please, I'm trying to work this out."  He realized as soon as he touched McCall that it was the wrong thing to do; McCall jerked out of his grasp and fixed a glare on him.  But in the next instant the anger was gone again, replaced by confusion and wonder.

/Who are you?/

"You haven't called me Robert since that night," McCall said quietly, staring at him.

****

Control made a noise and closed his eyes.  In his compassion and innocence, Sam had done something that Control never would have; reached out in a moment of vulnerability.  The result also awed him; Robert had paused and -- for just a moment -- responded to the love in it.

But Robert's outburst was more what Control had expected. The real horror in it was that it was influenced by Sam's kindness to him; it revealed a brutal honesty that Control had not seen in him since the night they made love.

****

"You came to my room that night and changed my sadness into unimaginable joy.  My God...my God, nobody is ever blessed like that."

****

Agony, searing agony at this revelation.

/Robert!  God, Robert I wish I had been there to hear you say that, but I know I would have just fucked it up like I did before./

****

"If you were going to feel guilty about it you should have thought of that beforehand and at least had the balls to not leave my bed before morning and then pretend for ever after as if nothing had happened!  Good night, Control and I hope you have pleasant, guilt-free dreams!"

****

Vicious, crushing shame burned him, making him hide his eyes from Sam and Al.  Control's grip of Al's shoulder was tight, almost uncomfortable.  Al realized another, newer reason behind the emotion.

/He's ashamed of the way he's treated Robert,/ Al thought. /He ought to be, too./

"What do I have to do?" Sam asked, gently breaking into the black chasm of Control's pain and grief.  Control drew a deep breath and forced himself to look up into Sam's eyes.  His own face stared back at him, yet it was not him.  Sam's presence in the body had made it his own.  Control wondered if Al had seen as much of him in Sam's body these past hours.

"You have to remember what happened to me," Control said softly.  "You've remembered my anguish.  You can also remember what happened in that hotel room five months ago.  You need to recall those memories, and learn what it was like for me."

"How do I do that?" Sam asked, not at all daunted by the prospect of remembering a homosexual encounter.  Al's eyes were wide; he didn't envy Sam this task.  Control ignored Al's reaction.

Control settled himself on the floor, focusing himself on Sam.  He lifted his hand to gesture slightly.

"Close your eyes."  Sam obeyed.  "Go back to the moment you Leaped into me.  The pleasure of the masturbation, the flood of release, and the emotions after it.  Go into them, embrace them, wallow in them until they become your own.  Go back to another day, five months ago..."

****

...Robert knew.  He had to.  The looks he had gotten back from the man; long, indulgent gazes of warmth and curiosity in response to his own longing and affection.  There was no resistance, no confusion, no anger in Robert's reaction.  Only fondness and sensuous heat.

He was lonely, oh...He shivered, hesitating in his previously committed pace down the hotel corridor.  Apprehension held him still.  Could this be a mistake?  Would he be destroying their relationship forever by doing this?

No.  That answer was obvious to him at this point.  Robert's soul was in this, too.  Control had only to act upon his own desire, his own love.  And it was too strong now to go on denying.  It hurt to keep it inside him, to try to pretend he didn't feel it.  The ache was very physical; he could easily imagine Robert's mouth on his own, the warmth and power of the man's body against him.  He wanted it all so desperately he was here now headed toward Robert's room with the intent of plunging right in.

He resumed his walk down the hall.  It was not far.  Room 816.  He knocked.  There was a pause, then a call of "Come in" from inside the room.  Control entered, finding Robert alone, sitting at the table reading by a single light.  He closed the door and locked it, barely aware of Robert's puzzled expression.

"What is it?" Robert asked.  Control went toward him and Robert stood up, the book put down and forgotten on the table.

"God forgive me for what I'm doing," Control whispered roughly as he moved closer.  "I can't stop it any longer."

McCall blinked, then suddenly knew why Control had come to him.  He opened his mouth for an instant as if to say something, his eyes wide with the full, trembling clarity of understanding 

Control reached out for his face with strong, shaking hands and pressed up against his body to kiss him hard on the mouth, devouring him with a lifetime of yearning...

...Robert was kissing his throat feverishly, his breath hot and quivering.  Control writhed in the powerful embrace of the man's arms, completely lost in the ecstasy of the sensual attention.  Robert bit him sharply, and he cried out in delight.  One of Robert's hands came up to begin unbuttoning Control's shirt quickly.

"I want to find out," Robert murmured, "if you really are as sensitive to being touched as I think you are."

Control purred and started to help him remove his clothes...

...Robert couldn't get enough of touching him.  The man's hands explored every feature of his body, every texture, every line and bone and muscle.  Robert liked biting him, and he loved being bitten.

"Thomas, I love you," Robert whispered.  "I love you..."

Robert's hands lingered around his cock, which was tense and aching.  It twitched at the contact of Robert's fingers and palms, making him flinch.  Robert stroked him gently, the pleasure of it flashing through him with waves of heat.

"You do like that, don't you," Robert said, his amusement and love enriching his accented voice.  Control held onto him desperately.  He was flying, free on the wind of the bliss in Robert's hands on his cock.  "Get down on the bed, love," Robert coaxed him quietly.  "Down on your back."

He obeyed, and Robert climbed over him to engulf his cock in the wet heat of his own mouth and tongue.  He arched his back and howled...

...The touch of his hands yielded the firm curve of muscles in Robert's arms and chest.  He felt the ripple of his pleasure flood down into his cock and he shifted his position on the bed so he could rub himself against Robert's thigh.  They were both naked, the physical contact of their bodies like electric current running sharp in both of them.  Robert purred gutturally, kissing him with leisurely affection.

"Aren't you beautiful," Robert said softly as Control withdrew to nuzzle his throat and shoulder, fascinated by the strength of muscles there.  "I want to make love to you," he whispered.  Control went very still.

"Are you sure?" he asked.

"Do you not want to?" Robert asked carefully, sounding disappointed.  Control kissed him fiercely.

"I want to," he said eagerly, seriously.  "I want to."

Strong hands caressed up his back, making him shiver involuntarily...

...The pressure inside him receded from pain to become a presence, a sensation of being filled and protected and comforted all at once.  He whimpered softly.  Robert was on top of him, inside him...inside him!  He groaned, the awe of it overwhelming him suddenly.  Robert's eyes were so open to him, so trusting, totally immersed in the incredible privacy of the moment between them.

"Robert, oh Jesus," Control said, trying not to cry but the tears came anyway.  "Oh, Jesus, I love you.  God, I love you, I love you..."  A gentle thumb rubbed the tears away, and Robert smiled down at him...

...The climax moved quickly toward him, and he slowed his thrusting.

"I'll come if I keep doing that," Robert said quietly, a shudder rippling through him.  Control's hands rubbed Robert's arms encouragingly.

"I want you to," Control said.  "Please.  I want to feel you come inside me."

"Are you sure?" Robert asked, his own tears not yet dry on his cheeks.  The weight of love kept inside was too great; they had both wept tonight.

"Yes."

...There was a howling cry, probably from both of them...

...Panting exhaustion and elation and love.  Love love...

...Waking up briefly in the night to the soft, comforting sound of slow, relaxed breathing from his lover...

...The morning sun flared into his room, waking him up.  He sat up on the edge of the bed, in his own room.  The full recollection of his night with Robert left him with a chill of astonishment.  He felt sick...

...A black weight closed in around him, engulfing him until he could not breathe or move or think without agony...

****

"Oh God," Sam whispered.  "Oh God I remember..."   He was crying, tears streaming down his face.  He wiped the tears away, his own breaths trembling.  Control put a hand over his eyes and was silent for several long moments.

Al watched them, watched Control in his stillness, kneeling on the floor trying to keep himself from losing his sanity.  Al hesitated, then reached up to put his hand over Control's where it rested on his shoulder.  Control didn't react in any visible way, but Al felt the hand on his shoulder tighten in gratitude.

"Is this...what it's like to be you?" Sam asked softly.

Control drew a deep, carefully temperate breath.

"I couldn't tell you," he said with a sigh.  He dropped his hand away from his face.  "I don't know how much you can really know without having been me for fifty-five years, and without having known Robert as I do.  But that night was my greatest joy, and everything after it my greatest misery."

There was a knock on the front door.

Control turned sharply on his heels, almost losing his balance in his breathless startlement.  Sam looked up and Al reacted swiftly to keep from losing physical contact with Control as the man stood up abruptly.

"Who is it?" Sam called out.

There was a short pause.

"It's Robert."  Another pause.  "Can I talk to you?"

"Holy Jesus," Control whispered softly.  Too soon!  Not enough time to prepare for this.

Eternity could not have prepared him enough.

Control turned back to look at Sam with a mixture of fear and intense admonition.

"Remember," he warned.  Sam only ducked his gaze briefly, then got up to answer the door.

He opened the door to a very dejected looking Robert McCall.  The gray eyes flicked up to make a naked appeal.

"I think...I think I may have been a bit...hasty with, uh, what I said earlier."  He shifted his weight nervously.  "Um, may I come in?"

"He never acts like this," Control said in the background. Sam glanced back at him, then stepped away from the door.

"Sure," Sam said.  McCall entered the house apprehensively.  There was no anger in his manner, no tense resentment.  He seemed...embarrassed.  He moved into the room, toward the sofa close to where Control and Al were standing, watching intently. Control in particular could not keep his eyes off of McCall, who was completely unaware of his presence in the house.

"I...realized after I left that I was the one who behaved foolishly.  You were...trying to open up to me and I wasn't letting you.  I'm sorry."

Sam looked at Control, who moved closer.  Time to let him take over the conversation.

"I wasn't sure what I was trying to do," Control said.  "I just know that I can't bear being hated by you anymore.  I can't bear waking up in the middle of the night screaming your name and then realizing that I'll never have you."

McCall looked at him.

"I don't know what to think of you anymore.  I don't know whether that night was a moment of weakness...whether you were just curious, or randy, or just insane."

Control looked like he might scream.

"Curious?" he exclaimed.  "Do you think I could have acted like I did if I was just horny?"

"I showed you my soul!" McCall said, his entire body emphasizing the ferocity and depth of his words.  "I have to be sure!"

 Control went up to him savagely.

"I was there, damn you!  I gave you everything I was!  I told you things I've never told another living soul!  Everything I said to you was true!  I love you.  I love touching you.  I love kissing you.  I love lying in the darkness listening to your voice and I wish, God I wish I could have had the guts to stay and watch the sun rise over your body that morning."

McCall looked at him for a long time.

"Why did you come to me that night?" he asked quietly. Control sighed, rubbed at his face.

"So many reasons.  I...never knew I could love a man -- sexually, I mean -- until I fell for you.  Even when it started happening I wouldn't admit it to myself.  I didn't grow up with the possibility that I might be anything other than a ladies man. I learned to hate it, to fear it.  But what I feel for you started years ago...a tiny seed of friendship that grew into something so magnificent that finally I had to bow down to it and embrace the reality of being in love with you.  That day, that night, was the culmination of thousands of hours of wondering, of hoping, of terror and grief.  Of longing.  Of lust.  I was...at a point in my life then that left me vulnerable to my desires.  I was lonely and frustrated and I wanted your company, your friendship.  On the way to your room that turned into something resolute.  I knew what I had to do.

"When it was over I was lying in the dark trying to comprehend what had happened.  It was as if someone else had been in my body for those hours.  As if the man I was left and the man I wanted to be came in and lived my dreams.  I panicked.  I left. When I woke up the next morning I realized what I had done, but I was too afraid to face you with it.  So I ran away and hid. Denial was the only way I could endure it."

McCall was silent for a long moment, gazing at him.  It was the first time Control could ever remember seeing him look so completely despondent, his shoulders slumped, his gray eyes empty of everything save grief.

"I supposed I can understand your reaction," McCall said finally.  "But I wish it hadn't happened like that."

Control made a frustrated, angry gesture in the air.

"You didn't deserve it," he said fiercely.  "You didn't deserve to be treated that way and I'm ashamed of myself for it."

"I never expected you to be this open," McCall said softly. "Not about anything, ever."

Control stared at him for several seconds, blue eyes fierce.

"There is a very basic truth about me you have never known, except on that night five months ago," Control said in a low voice.  "My emotional silence is not natural.  It's learned. Being in the Company forced me to become this way.  My greatest passion _is_ passion.  You've seen me when I let go.  That's who I am, Robert!  I am passionate.  I am tempestuous and obsessive and sexually insatiable.  I love.  I _love_ you.  I've been fighting my inner nature for so long, fighting the truth of wanting you, that I decided I don't want to hold onto the denial any more.  It hurts too much.  Lying in bed at night aching for you hurts too much."

"Then let go," McCall urged him.  "Let go of it and let me help you make this relationship what it should be."

"Sam," Al said quietly.  "Ziggy says it's time for you to Leap.  Control has to go back to the Waiting Room."

Sam turned his head slightly, then looked at McCall.  He could feel a tugging at his consciousness; a promise.  A reminder.

"Could you...excuse me for a couple of minutes?" Sam asked McCall quietly.  McCall nodded understandingly.  He could scarcely blame the man for wanting a moment to sort things out. He needed a moment or two alone, as well.

"Of course."

Sam went back into the master bedroom.  Al quickly punched into the handlink, opening the Imaging Chamber door, and in a moment they were gone.

 

Project Quantum Leap, Stallions Gate, New Mexico, 12 Jul 1998:

Al and Control strode down the corridors of the Project facility.  Control was conspicuously silent and brooding.  Al glanced sideways at him.

"This means it's done," Al said.  "Sam's helped you make the crucial turn in events.  You can finish this now, and it's only right that you should. 

Control looked sharply at him as they walked.

"Don't worry," Control said scathingly.  "Sam's been spared the torture of having to go through with a homosexual act."

"That's not what I meant," Al said.

"Isn't it?" Control shot back.  "You've worried about it from the moment you found out why I'm here."

Al was quiet for a few steps.  He hadn't realized his feelings were that wide open to the man.  They turned a corner. The Waiting Room was just ahead.

Control decided to keep his mouth shut, even though he wanted to get angry at Al for his bigotry.  He could sense that there was a part of Al that wanted to get past the fear, get past the derisive condescension.  But the disdain was still there, mocking him.  Mocking who he was, what he felt, what he experienced in his love and desire toward Robert.  He hated that, and he hated Al for thinking it wasn't as blindingly obvious as it was.

The Waiting Room door opened at Al's command.  They went inside.  Control walked over to the mirrored table in the center of the main room and looked at himself again.  He saw none of Sam in the face, especially the brown eyes.  They were his eyes now, burning and sharp.

"How's it going, Ziggy?" Control asked, still gazing at himself in the table surface.

"Current Leap objective is completed.  All indicators are positive for a Leap transference," Ziggy replied.  "You should Leap within the next twenty seconds."

Control turned to look at Al, who gazed back at him passively.

"You will never understand what it is like to be me," Control said.  "You will never understand why I love Robert, and why he loves me in return."

He felt his consciousness fade, pulled into a white maelstrom of motion and suspension.  A gentle presence reassured him he would be okay.

The End

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