RATING: PG... for some swearing 
CATEGORY: Challenge - PQL AU (this AU is open  Welcome to use it, but be kind.)
DISCLAIMERS: This is fanfiction. No profit involved. This story is based on the television series "The Magnificent Seven". No infringement upon the copyrights held by CBS, MGM, TNN, Showtime Extreme, Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp. or any others involved with that production is intended.  Elements of this story also reflect the television series "Quantum Leap".  No infringements on their copyrights are intended either.
NOTE: This is in response to Setcheti's January 2002 Magnificent 7 Challenge -- the AU CHALLENGE
FEEDBACK: Yes please! comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated.
DATE: January 8, 2002, housekeeping done January 2, 2010

PQL: Be There
By NotTasha...who is still testing the AU waters
Here we go with another PQL AU story.  I wanted to fill you in on a little of the background of the PQL players.  This AU doesn't always follow the rules of the TV show “Quantum Leap”.  The biggest change is that there's THREE sets of Leapers, and that the Leaper and Observer switch places.  Also, there's a mental bond between the Leaper and the Observer that lets the Observer feel what the Leaper is feeling.  I'm sure there's other changes -- but most of those are due to my ignorance.

Chris Larabee sat alone in his office, leaning back on his padded leather chair. Damn, he was tired.  It had been a long day.  All three teams were in the middle of leaps, leaving him in a constant state of agitation, doing his best to determine the objective, seek out all the possible dangers, assist with the prophesy of outcomes, and keep his men on track.

It was a full time job.  ‘Keeping his men on track,’ often proved to be the hardest of the tasks.  Some of them were more troublesome than others.  Chris sighed at this thought.  Well, at least Standish wasn't even in the country.  Maybe he’d stay out of trouble this time; Maybe he wouldn't place any wagers.   If it weren’t for the ‘swiss-cheesing’ effect that temporarily messed up the Leaper’s memories, Standish’s gambling habits would be a constant worry. Even so, Ezra often was able to draw enough information concerning 'upcoming' events from his fractured mind to keep Vin on his toes.  Tanner couldn't do much to stop Standish, but at least he could be there to advise against it.  In any case, there seemed to be some sort of ‘Fate’ at work that tended to keep the money from ever reaching Standish in the present – that and PQL operatives in other time-periods had a way of rerouting the winnings.

Of course, trying to remember the outcome of a certain Super Bowl was probably the last thing on Ezra's mind right now.  Larabee sighed, hoping that the gambler was doing okay.  Vin would look after him.

Nathan seemed to be having some troubles adjusting to his latest leap.  At least Josiah was there for him.  A person couldn't ask for a more understanding and patient Observer.

Dunne was just finishing up his leap.  Good, Larabee thought.  It’ll be best for everyone if he gets his butt back here tonight.   Buck nearly pulled his hair out at the frustration of being unable to add anything beyond moral support when JD was in a crisis, but the kid was good and hadn’t failed them once.  Still, while Dunne was in a leap, Larabee would expect at least one frantic visit from Wilmington, begging him to get JD out of there – to leap him home permanently.

If it was only that easy.

Project Quantum Leap had entered its second month of action, and still Larabee hadn't figured out how to get all his Leapers home, to stop the slingshot effect that kept those men leaping through in time.  He drummed his fingers in agitation on his desktop.  Six men that he had hired were at risk, constantly thrown into situations that they barely understood, tossed about in time without a safety net.  It wasn't right.  Someone should do something about it, figure out how to get them out of that miserable mess.  And Larabee knew damn well who was responsible.

No, Chris couldn’t blame Buck for his protective streak over his partner.  Larabee had the same feeling for his men.   But, at least Wilmington could hover over JD's shoulder, could watch and guide him, could SEE him for Christ's sake!  All Chris could do was sit here and wait, to offer advice, to act the part of the leader and keep them on track.  It wasn't much.  It wasn't enough.

It wasn't supposed to have happened this way.


Larabee had long dreamed of time-travel, had always known in his heart that it was possible.  His wife, Sarah, had been his confidant in this scheme.  She'd listen to his every whim, would nod and encourage him no matter how strange his ideas were.  He wasn’t a man of many words, so when he spoke, she listened intently.  She was the one that gave him confidence, strength and hope.  When Sarah and his son, Adam, died in a botched bank robbery, he lost that confidence, he lost track of his dream.

He'd fallen into a drunken haze, and only his old friend Buck was able to rescue him.  Talking endlessly about Larabee's theory of time travel, Buck was able to bring his friend back from the brink.  He found something that Chris would consider living for.

Buck and Chris spent the next year trying to drum up government funding. They were met with puzzled and amused responses.  Time travel?  Most officials simply reminded them that this was ‘real life’, not ‘science fiction’.  Chris had patiently explained his string theory and slowly he began to find some who would listen to him.  Money started to flow in, enough to get started.  They collected a staff.

The first was a young man, fresh out of MIT.  JD Dunne, a computer genius, was brought in to program the computer system. JD was quickly dubbed, 'the Kid' by Buck and forced to put up with Wilmington's good-natured ribbing.   Buck liked the computer expert and took him under his wing, bringing him in on all the biggest secrets of PQL, showing him the ropes.  The computer started to come to life under Dunne's careful watch, and it was the kid who named the computer "The Clarion".

Then, the historian, Josiah Sanchez joined the team. His emphasis was in theological history, gaining him the nickname 'Preacher', but his knowledge of recent history was a boon to the project -- he'd seen much of it firsthand.  He brought a gentle stability to the team.  And then Sanchez suggested a perfect candidate to head the medical staff.

Dr. Nathan Jackson was the next man hired.  There was no telling what would happen once the ‘Leap’ happened, and a well-trained medical staff was necessary. With Jackson came his no-nonsense nurse, Nettie Wells, and she in turn suggested her niece as an assistant. They would keep the medical ward in ship-shape.  Jackson became enthralled with the whole idea of time-travel and he spent more time poking about at the time-travel equipment than in the medical ward.  He'd figured that much of history had gone rather poorly for certain segments of society and the whole idea of being able to go back and change it all was intriguing.

With the new personnel added, the ‘real’ work could begin. Further funding was found and the PQL Accelerator was created.  An early version of the Imaging Chamber was built and the first leap was attempted.  Chris Larabee prepared himself for the process, fully aware of the dangers he faced. On the fateful day of the first trial, he stepped into the Quantum Leap Accelerator Chamber – and nothing happened.  It was a failure -- but they had learned.  They went back to the drawing-board and tried again, developing a much-improved version -- only to meet with failure again.

The five men put all their effort into the next four versions of the equipment, further tuning The Clarion, adjusting and reinventing the Accelerator without success.  But their hopes were undaunted.  It could work, it'd have to work; Chris knew this for certain.  They almost had it!  A fever caught hold of the five of them as they realized that they were growing closer with each attempt -- they were within reach of their goal.

It was at this time that Vin Tanner joined the team, at Buck's request. Tanner felt a little out of place with all the 'brain power' surrounding him.  He'd grown up in Texas, but had been a bush pilot for most of his adult life in Alaska, had survived more than one crash into the icy wilderness, and walked out. He had been a dog musher, a hunter, a surveyor, and had led rescue missions into the tundra, tracking lost men and bringing them back alive. Wilmington had argued that they needed someone with excellent survivor skills, someone who could offer lifesaving advice if needed. There was no telling where Chris would end up when the leap finally took place, and quite possibly he'd need this sort of knowledge to keep himself alive.

Ezra Standish was the final addition.  Standish was a risk from the start.  He'd been a consultant for various military forces around the world -- most of them allies.  His final recommendation in that capacity had sent eight soldiers to their deaths. He'd dropped out of sight for several years after that incident and then resurfaced recently in the US, arrested for passing counterfeit currency. He'd declared himself innocent, that the money came into his possession in perfectly legal manner. He'd been able to beat that charge, but still questions remained.  Some swore that the counterfeit cash was part of his payoff.

The seventh version of PQL commenced.  A theory evolved that by coordinating his neurons with those of his men, Larabee would have direct contact with them when he disappeared into the past. He needed the knowledge of these six men at his fingertips, a neural imprint would be placed on The Clarion with the hopes of creating a link between him and the others.  He could be in contact with any of them that stepped into the Imaging Chamber, draw on them when he needed.  Vin and Ezra were the most reluctant to submit to this process -- Vin, because he was suspicious of any machine that wanted to encapsulate him; and Ezra because he wanted no part of anyone trying to get into his mind.

Despite their concerns, Vin and Ezra did eventually undergo the process and the pre-work was nearly completed.  Larabee would be the last to be scanned, hoping that it would allow him to link to the others already contained on the computer's database. Larabee was scheduled to submit to this final brain scan later that afternoon.

It was then that everything went a little caca.


Larabee reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of Crown Royal, recalling the day, three months ago, when everything changed.  A thunderstorm had come into the area -- nothing to worry about really.  He'd been in his office, as he was now.  He remembered sitting here quietly, mentally, preparing himself for the process that was ahead of him, getting ready to leap into the past.  What would happen once the leap was complete?  What would he see and hear and experience?  His heart had beat faster in anticipation.

Wilmington, Jackson and Tanner were in the Accelerator Chamber, making final adjustments to the equipment.  Dunne, Sanchez and Standish were programming The Clarion.  It was a normal day for them at PQL.

Chris poured the whiskey into a glass and stared at it for a moment. He turned it slowly in his hand, watching the way the amber liquid moved, then took a drink as he remembered the explosion that rocked the facility.


A lightning bolt hit a power lines nearly a mile from the project. Later, there would be questions as to why they hadn't switched to their backup generators when the storm was sighted.  Why hadn't there been a failsafe?  But who would have expected anything like this? The power surged in and overloaded the electrical system of PQL.    The explosion echoed through the close walls.  Blue light flashed so brightly that Chris was momentarily blinded.

Larabee had emerged from his office and ran toward the worst of it. Everyone was shouting and gesturing, trying to put out the fires.  Standish, Sanchez and Dunne were unconscious in The Clarion’s Chamber. That was horror enough, but Larabee felt his heart constrict when someone told him that the other three were missing. He charged into the Accelerator Chamber, and stood frozen in disbelief as his eyes took in what he’d been told.  Buck, Vin and Nathan were gone.

Theories were instantly bandied about.  Had they been evaporated? Spontaneously combusted?  Or had the three of them leaped into the past?

Dunne and the others started to come around.  They were confused and disoriented.  Medically, they checked out and no problems were found.  The explosion had centered in the Quantum Leap Accelerator, and the overload was strong enough to knock the computer out of commission. Still, The Clarion's Chamber was unmarred, it showed no sign of the explosion reaching that room, and thus there was no reason for these three to be so dazed.

They couldn't quite put their finger on what was wrong, but Josiah, Ezra and JD were quite convinced that something had happened, something had changed in their perception of the world.  When they’d been informed that the others had vanished, they seemed strangely accepting of this fact, as if they’d already suspected it.  There was no doubt in any of their minds; Buck, Nathan and Vin had leaped.

As soon as they could get on their feet, Josiah, Ezra and JD busied themselves with getting The Clarion back online. Nettie and Casey Wells had attempted to make them rest, but there was no stopping them.  They needed to get the system fixed, immediately.  The team psychiatrist, Mary Travis, tried to help the other three understand what had happened to them.

"It's like a ticking in the back of my mind," JD had explained. "As if someone started up a clock, or flipped a switch or something.  Something's there that wasn't before."

Sanchez had tried to explain the feeling as an 'anxious wait', as if he knew that something was about to happen. "The calm before the storm," he finally said, trying to put the feeling into words.

Standish had patiently, but persistently rejected Mary's requests for an interview, too busy with getting The Clarion working again to be bothered.

That first day was murderous to Larabee.  He spent the day storming around the facility, ordering everyone to work harder and faster.  Shouting out his frustrations to anyone that got in his way.  The Clarion had to be brought online again.  Buck and the others had to be found.  When The Clarion started coming around, Larabee stepped into the Imaging Chamber and searched, but no matter how hard he tried, Buck, Vin and Nathan couldn’t be found.

And then, in a flash of blue, Buck reappeared in the Accelerator Chamber. For the first few seconds, an excited rush filled the facility, except he wasn’t Buck.  Chris’ dread only increased as his oldest friend, backed away from him in fear and insisted that his name was ‘Pat.’


There was a gentle rap on the doorframe and Chris looked up to see Wilmington.  "Hey, boss," he said.  "You got any of that to share?"

"Only got one glass," Larabee replied, lifting the container toward his friend.

"Not a problem."  Wilmington stepped into the room and grabbed the bottle. He tipped it back, smacking his lips appreciatively at the results.

He looked tired, Larabee decided.  He'd probably been working around the clock on JD's latest leap.  "How's he doing?"  Chris asked.

"Oh, he's havin' dinner with his family," Buck replied.  "Eight kids…who-eee.  I used to think that I’d like a big family someday, but I didn't realize that they were so much work.  I think that boy has earned his stripes on this one. The youngest ones can see him for who he is, but they seem to be gettin' along okay with that.  He'll make a damn good papa in his time."

"You think he's close to wrapping this one up?"

"Any minute now. He's keepin' a close eye on that wild one. She won't be runnin' off tonight and gettin' herself killed, not with JD there.  He's talking to her and she's listening." He took another drink and added,  "He'll call me if he needs me." Buck looked contemplative as he regarded the bottle.

"He been havin' any problems?"

Wilmington sighed.  "Oh, you know JD.  He's awful softhearted sometimes.  One of the kids is a little slow,  ya know.  Gets teased by some of the school kids.  His brothers and sisters are good to him, but he came home crying the other day.  It breaks JD's heart. He wants to do everything for them, wishes he could do more "

"I know the feeling," Chris muttered.


JD was the first to understand what was going on, that Buck had displaced someone in time, and sent this 'Pat' rocketing forward into their own timeframe.  “It isn’t Buck,” he’d insisted to everyone around him.  Josiah and Ezra both agreed with Dunne, even though the others at PQL were doubtful.  JD was adamant about it.  When Chris looked at the man, he saw Buck.

Pat told him what he could, in spite of his terror.  They now knew the date and place where Buck must be.  Now, they only need find him.

Larabee tried the Imaging Chamber again, but was met with no success.  It was JD's turn to try to attempt contact.  It worked like a charm.  JD was flushed with excitement when he exited that room, proclaiming everything he'd seen and experienced.  "I just stuck my head in and found him."

"It's like I'm a ghost, almost," JD explained.  "Only he can see and hear me.  I can walk through walls and go almost anywhere." Dunne explained what he'd learned.  Pat was a young man in a farming community, with a wife named Bev and a hell of a mortgage hanging over him.

Larabee listened in fascination.  Damn, he thought. I wish I could be there.

The team at PQL worked to discover everything they could about Pat, passing on what they learned to JD so that he could give the information on to Buck.  Wilmington would live the life of Pat Brennan.  He had to fit in, to be 'Pat' until they figured out what to do next.

And then, as suddenly as Pat had appeared, someone who looked like Nathan showed up, in that same blue light.   But he wasn’t Nathan anymore, he was a confused 'Frank'. The man calling himself Frank was taken to the waiting room with the man who looked like Buck but calling himself Pat.

Sanchez declared he had some sort of contact with the real Nathan Jackson and then it was his turn in the Chamber.  When Vin returned, claiming the name of 'Eddie', they were ready, and whisked him into the Waiting Room with the others.  No one had realized that Ezra wasn't with them until the Imaging Chamber was initiated again.

They were linked, each pair, somehow.  They knew what the other was feeling, could find each other in time.  Larabee could only watch -- anxious and jealous -- as the three Observers reported back on what was going on with the other three.  The Leapers were confused, their minds somewhat scrambled, not understanding what was going on or remembering anything about Project Quantum Leap. They were, after a short time, able to fill in the holes enough to remember who they were, but a slight confusion always remained while they were in a leap.

And Larabee could do nothing.  He had attempted to make contact with them in the Imaging Chamber, had attempted to complete the neural scan that would have linked them all together, but it didn’t seem to do any good.  Apparently only their appointed partner could find them in time.

Those first few startled days were torture for the Project Leader. This was supposed to be his project, his leap, his past to repair.  These six men were to be his support group -- they weren't supposed to be the ones in the midst of everything.  What was going to happen to them?  How would he get them back?  The Accelerator Chamber had been destroyed in the power surge.  It would take time to repair.  Until then, how would their retrieve the Leapers?


"Is this a private party?"  Sanchez asked as he leaned in the doorway.

Larabee motioned the preacher in and he took a seat beside Buck.  Wilmington handed him the bottle and Josiah took a slug of it.  He sighed as he regarded the taste, and then took another pull.  "Nate's having a time of it," Sanchez sighed as he lowered the bottle.  "He's getting himself all tied up in this one."

"Yeah?  What's wrong?"  Buck asked.  "Thought this one wasn't so bad.  He's just supposed to get that fence fixed so that his dog doesn't get out and maul that kid."

Josiah took one more drink before he handed the bottle back to Wilmington. "Yeah, except that he's in the place of a hard-hearted bigot and everyone around him expects him to behave that way. Pretty much his whole neighborhood hates him and lets him know it."

"Doesn't sound too good," Buck agreed.

"Plus the damn dog despises him." Josiah smiled when he said that. "Ripped his pants twice now.   He finally figured that he has to fix the fence from the outside."

Larabee nodded.  He should have remembered that -- animals could easily recognize when their owners had been replaced  -- small children noted the change, too.

The big man sighed and said, "It’s been really wearing on him.  Since he's outside that fence, all sorts of folks are drivin' by and causing him woe.  I should be getting back soon.  He's gonna need someone to talk to.  I just hope he finishes up soon so he can leap out of that place."


Shortly after that first day, it became clear that Tanner, Wilmington and Jackson had leaped into precarious places in history.  As the staff researched their locations, they found that tragedy was about to overcome all three of them.  Larabee theorized that if they simply corrected their situations, diverted those calamities, fixed time  - perhaps they'd be allowed to return.  Maybe, Larabee had thought, they only need to put right what once went wrong. The scenarios were researched further, plans of action were decided and put into place.

It helped to have a plan.  Larabee could feel some of his anxiety falling away as they tracked down possible solutions, as The Clarion spit out probabilities.  Still, Larabee wished it was he who had leaped.  He wished he could be there instead of any of the three.

Vin was the first to 'fix' his place in time.  A flash of blue light enveloped 'Eddie', and suddenly he was Vin.

Vin Tanner smiled at the others once the light has faded. His new silence was reason enough for Nettie to realize that Vin had returned.  Eddie had been a chatterbox, so different from the quiet bush pilot. There was rejoicing at PQL.   It had worked!  This was going to be so simple.  They had figured out the secret!  With any luck they could do this all the time, leap back -- do a quick fix -- and return home.

Then Vin asked, "Where's Ez?"

Ezra was gone.  They searched the whole facility, checked the motor pool to see if he had taken one of the vehicles, checked records of the video monitors.  The last place he'd been seen was entering the Imaging Chamber and his handlink was found, abandoned, on the floor.  He'd been beside Vin just before the leap.  How could he be gone now?

Vin had a strange niggling feeling that he couldn't quite explain.  He had the awful idea that Ezra had leaped out even as he was leaping back.  When Vin voiced his concerns, both JD and Josiah backed up his idea.  Larabee listened patiently and then did everything he could to find another answer.  It made no sense!  They'd just retrieved Vin!  How could Ezra have leaped?

For a day, there was no trace of the gambler.  And then, as suddenly as the others had appeared, ‘Damiano' flashed into Waiting Room.

Vin had been sitting in the commissary when it happened.  He stood up as if he'd been stung and looked around in confusion.  His startled appearance had concerned the commissary's manager, Inez Recilios.  When she asked him what was wrong, he didn't seem to hear her.

"So that's what it's like," Vin said distractedly and hustled to the Imaging Chamber. He'd felt the leap in, felt the confusion and alarm that had alerted the others before him.  He knew without a doubt that Ezra had ‘arrived'.

Buck was the next to leap back to PQL, and JD disappeared at that same moment.   The process continued with Nathan and Josiah as one man leaped back to the present and the other simply went away.  Some time later, someone who looked like them would flash into the Waiting Room and the process would begin again.

Slingshot Effect, they called it.  The pairs were so closely linked that when one leaped out, the other leaped in.  There was usually a  pause between leaps, usually lasting a few days, before the Leaper leaped into the past and displaced his target.  The slingshot effect kept them hurtling back and forth in time, trading places in time travel.  They all seemed to be linked to Josiah's lifespan, leaping as far back as his date of birth, April 13, 1950.

Two more Imaging Chambers needed to be built to accommodate three Observers.  Since then, PQL had rarely been quiet.


"Hey," Vin said as he entered the office.  He slumped onto a file cabinet with a weary sigh.  Buck held up the bottle invitingly, and Vin stood long enough to take it from him before returning to the low cabinet.

"How's Ezra?"  Chris asked.

"Fine," Vin responded.  "They're movin' out tomorrow.  Told him to stay low."  Caught up in Desert Storm, Ezra was trying to keep himself and his company alive.  'Payback,' Standish had told Vin when they first realized what his mission must be.  Tanner took a long drink and then studied the bottle silently.

All three Observers looked beat.   If they weren't busy 'observing', they were researching.  And then, after a frantic few days of researching and observing, they’d be thrown back into the mix, back into the dangers of leaping.  When they came back, there was quiet until their leaper went back to work.  

Chris stood and walked around the desk to retrieve the bottle from Vin and refill his glass.  He handed the bottle to Buck and settled in his chair again.  The four of them were silent as they shared the liquor, each lost in their own thoughts.

The fate of a child rested on JD.  If he didn't pay enough attention to one young girl, she'd run away in the night and be taken away by a madman.  If Nathan didn't build a strong enough fence, his vicious dog would escape and attack a neighbor boy, disfiguring him for life.  If Ezra wasn't careful tomorrow, he and a dozen men would be killed.  None of them had asked for this sort of responsibility.  They'd signed on as consultants, programmers and staff.  They weren't supposed to be in the midst of it all.

"Damn it," Chris muttered as he regarded his glass.  It wasn't supposed to be this way.  None of it was supposed to be this way.

Once they'd repaired the Accelerator, they'd made attempts to pull back the Leapers, all without success.  They seemed to be at the mercy of Fate, or God, or Time.  Twice now, two of the Leapers had ended up in the same place and once all three had shown up at a rodeo, but for the most part, it was just one man -- alone, with only his Observer to offer advice and support.  It wasn’t right.

It must have been damn lonely sometimes.

I should be there, Chris thought ruefully.  Not them.

"You okay, Chris?"  Buck asked.

Larabee nodded curtly.  Of course he was okay.  He wasn't the one risking his neck regularly.

He watched as Josiah winced.  "Better go," Sanchez said.  "Nathan's gettin' anxious about something."  They knew, the Observers, what was going on with their Leapers.  It was part of the link that bound them.  The Leaper had no idea of what the Observer was doing, but the Observer always felt part of the Leaper's emotions.  "I'd better see what's going on."  Sanchez stood and nodded to his friends before leaving.

Vin took the cue and headed toward the door as well.  "Gonna get some sleep," he muttered.  Vin handed the bottle to Buck as he left.  There wouldn't be much rest for Ezra and him tomorrow.

Buck watched his friends leave, then turned to Larabee.  "You gonna be alright?"  He had noted Chris' unsettled mood.  Three years ago, PQL had been a means of drawing him out of a dark depression.  Buck had played along, not really believing that time travel was possible -- he only wanted to see his friend live again, to strive for something.  He'd used PQL to save his friend, a carrot to dangle, never knowing that it could actually work.  Now, ever since the accident that sent him and the others hurtling through time, Buck had seen the mood of his friend shift from elation to depression, to excitement and back to a solemn silence.

"I'm responsible for them, Buck," Larabee said softly.

Wilmington shrugged.  "Way I see it, Fate is responsible for them now."

"It should've been me.  I should be the one looking after that girl.  I should be the one taking on those pissed off neighbors.  I should be the one that's going to get shot at."

"Something decided otherwise," Buck stated calmly.  "Something wanted you here instead of there.  The way I figure it, whatever snatched us up instead of you, wanted you to stay."

Chris frowned deeply.  "It's not what I want.  What the hell good am I doing here?"

"You keep us together, give us direction, keep us on track."  Buck grinned.  "You yell at us when we go off half-cocked.  I 'spect Fate-or-whatever knew we needed a leader.  You're the right man for the job."

"Doesn't mean I have to like it," Chris said and gulped down the last of his drink.

"Yeah, but we like it."  Buck nodded knowingly.  "We like knowin' that you're here with your hands on the reins.  We like knowin' you're the guy in charge, that you're here for us to talk to if we need to."

"It's not much."

"It’s a lot," Buck corrected.  He stood and brushed at his pants.  "I'd better head to the Imaging Chamber.  I think JD's about to Leap.  He must have straightened out that girl.  I want to be there and see how it goes."  He smiled at his friend and said, "This is the way it's meant to be."

"Yeah," Chris responded, not believing it.  He looked up at Buck, feeling that same horrible mix of jealousy and anxiety, knowing what Buck was about to do.  "Good luck."

"Thanks," Buck accepted his statement.  "You too.  Sometimes I think you need it more than the rest of us."  And he left the room.

The project leader sat for a long time in the empty room, wishing he could just understand it all.   He wasn't sure how much time had passed when his com-link beeped.  He touched it, much softer than he usually would.  "Larabee," he spoke.

"Hey, Chris, it's me…JD."  Dunne's voice came over the intercom.  "Just got in."

"Glad to have you back," Larabee greeted.  Yes, it was always good to have any of his Leapers back, even if it did slingshot another of his men right back into time.

Dunne replied, "Soon as Nettie and Casey let me out of here, can I come up to your office?"  Larabee could hear the women fussing in the background, checking him out and ensuring he was medically fit.  "Casey..." he heard JD utter in embarrassment.  "Anyway," he continued.  "If you have a moment..."

"Anything wrong?"  Larabee asked.

"No, not really.  I just thought...  Well, I mean, if you have time to talk… I'd like to talk."

Chris could hear the soft lament in the young man's voice. Larabee remembered what Buck had said about JD's leap.  "Sure," he replied.  "I'll be here."

"It's no big deal.   If you're busy, we can do it some other time."

"Not a problem, JD."

"Great!"  JD responded.  He could hear the unguarded relief in Dunne's voice. "Soon as I get away, I'll come up."

JD ended the conversation and Larabee sat back in his leather chair again. There wasn't much he could do, but at least he could do this.  He could direct them, advise them, chastise and praise them.  He was their leader after all.  He could be there for his men.

THE END - by NotTasha

I would love to hear your comments and suggestions.  

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