QUANTUM BEAST: The Epilogue by Lee Kirkland It was his second Leap through time and although he was prepared for it, Vincentstaggered a little when he leaped back home. As he tried to regain his footing, his balance becamemore precarious, so he stopped and tightened his grip. He looked down, wanting his eyes to confirm what his heart already knew, but all he couldsee was the soft brown hair across her cheek; she was wrapped in his cloak, and her face wasburied against his neck. "Catherine?" he asked softly. She lifted her face and he set her gently on her feet, unable to stop staring. His handstouched her face. "Vincent? Is something wrong?" The sound of her voice was food for a starving man. "No," he said, brushing away a stray wisp of hair and stroking gentle fingers across hercheek. "I just want to look at you." She looked tired, with faint purple smudges under her eyes, but he didn't think he'd everseen a more beautiful sight. All he wanted was to stand here forever, holding her; his eyes filledwith tears of joy. Smiling at him, she touched a finger to his cheek. "Don't cry," she whispered. "I'm herenow. I'm safe. I knew you would come." Her faith wounded him, knowing as he did, that he had not found her, but his joy wasgreater than all else, and he returned her smile. A moment later, her expression becameunfocused and her eyes grew distant as her body tensed. She's in labor, he remembered. "It's allright," he whispered, holding her. "I'm here." As the contraction eased, she relaxed against him. "Catherine okay?" a tentative voice asked from the end of the passage. "Catherine hurt?" "Catherine is fine, Mouse," Vincent answered his friend. "She's having a baby." My baby? That's what she told Sam... Mouse asked it aloud. "Vincent's baby?" For the first time in more than six months, Vincent heard the sweet sound of Catherine'slaughter. "Yes, Mouse, Vincent's baby." The young man grinned. "Okay, good, okay, fine." He came closer and held outsomething. "For Catherine." Vincent reached out for the soft bundle and looked at it curiously. "Socks?" "Clean!" Mouse promised quickly. "Good socks. Warm. Mary made." "I'm sure they're fine socks, Mouse, but why?" "No shoes!" Mouse pointed down and Vincent looked. Catherine was barefoot, and her feet looked cold on the dusty tunnel floor. "Thank you, Mouse," she said, smiling. Mouse gallantly offered Catherine an arm forbalance and Vincent knelt, pulling the borrowed socks up over her feet. "Mouse, why do you happen to have a pair of clean socks with you?" Catherine asked ashe straightened. "Always carry," Mouse proclaimed. "Mouse goes far. Father says, don't want blisters,wear clean socks." "Thank you, Mouse," Vincent said. "Your help tonight was invaluable." He felt safesaying that, since Al had told him Mouse was guiding Sam through the tunnels. Mouse beamed. "Saved Catherine!" he boasted. "Yes, Mouse. Vincent told me how you helped," Catherine said. Stepping forward, shesurprised and embarrassed poor Mouse with a warm hug. "Thank you." Mouse ducked his head and backed away. "Gotta go," he said, blushing. "Tell everyone!" "Mouse. Go to Father first. Tell him Catherine is safe and she's about to have a child." Mouse nodded, hurried around a corner and was gone. Vincent didn't see him leave; he had eyes only for Catherine. "You're well?" he askedanxiously. "Did they hurt you? The man called Gabriel..." She came back into his arms and he tucked his cloak around her more snugly, unable tostop touching her. "He wanted the baby," she said flatly. "He took care of me because he neededme for that." She looked at him. "Vincent, how did you know his name?" "A friend," Vincent said slowly, wondering how much he could tell her. "He helped tofind you. He told me." "Who?" "His name is Albert. You've never met him." "I'd like to." "I don't know if that will be possible," Vincent said. "There is another who helped, andyou have met him, though I have not. His name is Sam." She frowned. "I don't remember anyone called Sam." Vincent smiled. "There is no reason why you should," he said. "Nevertheless, without hishelp, and Albert's..." his voice broke. "I would have lost you." Her arms went around his neck and he held her as tightly as he dared, acutely aware of therounded swell of her abdomen pressing against him; lightly he touched it. "Catherine, if you have no objection, I would like to name our son after my friend." "A son? You can tell it's a boy?" Her smile was a mixture of wonder and joy. "I know it is a son," Vincent said carefully, not revealing how he came by that knowledge. "May we call him Albert?" He already knew her answer would be yes. The tunnels are quiet except for the occasional sound of a passing subway train above orthe gentle tapping on the pipes acknowledges that all is well in the tunnels. It is late and thesetranquil sounds are reassuring. So much has happened recently that my mind and heart canscarcely contain the maelstrom of emotions that stir within. The entries have been few in this new journal; it's not been a time for writing. The wordshave not provided the catharsis for which I long; perhaps tonight they will. Catherine sleeps behind me, in my bed; our son sleeps beside her. They are here. Theyare safe. I marvel at all that has happened today. I would like to forget the nightmare, but Iremember searching for her, night after night... without even our bond to sustain me. I was almost at the point of desperation when I "leaped". (The concept is still difficult forme to comprehend even after experiencing it twice, but it saved Catherine's life... I owe so muchto Sam and Albert.) To "leap" back and find Catherine in my arms was more than I could have imagined, evenwith what Albert had told me. All I could do was look at her, touch her... try to convince myselfthat she was real. As I carried her to my chamber, I began to sense the nebulous stirrings of our bond... butit seemed different this time. It seemed to come from Catherine... but moreso from within. Idared not concentrate on it; part of me feared its loss once again and its existence was tenuous. At that moment Catherine's welfare was more important. She was in pain and I needed no bondto feel it. I was even more afraid knowing that her pain was because of the child she wascarrying, my child. I tried to comfort her as best I could, telling her things that might distract her. Although it seemed like forever to me, Catherine's labor actually progressed quite rapidly. I wished only that I could draw the pain away from her, yet I was helpless to do so. As Iwitnessed the birth of our son, I was filled with such wonder at the miracle unfolding before me; Iwas so proud of Catherine, her love, her courage, her unflagging belief in me... in us. I rememberthose moments when I first held him. He's beautiful... I wish that Albert and Sam were here toshare this with me. I find myself missing Albert and wishing I could have known him better. If only I couldmeet Sam and thank him for what he's given me. "If in the twilight of memory we should meetonce more, we shall speak again together and you shall sing to me a deeper song. And if ourhands should meet in another dream we shall build another tower in the sky." I wish I could sharethese words of Gibran with them. I am learning what it must be like for Catherine to carry the secret of the tunnels... and me. Would Catherine and Father really believe I travelled in time? Would my friends believe Sam andI exchanged places? Or would they think I was like Dorothy after the twister, dreaming it all? What would Catherine say if she knew I had gone out into the daylight and felt the sunshine onmy face? That for once I'd been able to experience the beauty of her world from outside thepages of a book? I'm changed now; things will never be the same. I know that Catherine and I can share alife together... and that we will. Will she be surprised when I tell her our next child will be adaughter... that her name will be Samantha? Or will she smile and accept it as another surprisethat life together brings us. Will she ever know? Will I ever be able to tell her? Do I need to...? THE END ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ About the Author Lee Kirkland is a pseudonym for Sue Hernandez and Becky Bain. Sue and Becky met at a SUPPORTERS OF BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Denver-based group) meeting in December of 1988 and began writing together shortly after that. Altogether, Lee has written four B&B 'zines (WHERE THE RAINBOW ENDS, Vols. 1-4), three B&B/Quantum Leap crossovers (QUANTUM BEAST Vols. 1-3), and several short stories. Writing alone, Becky has written three 'zines, ETERNITY, ETERNITY 2: I Shall Emerge, ETERNITY 3: Collected Dreams, and some short stories. In addition, working with Beth Druhan, she helped produce (and has a story in) a B&B 'zine called THE HAT ON THE BENCH IN CENTRAL PARK, in which each of five writers wrote a story using that image. Lee's 'zines are all now out of print. All will eventually be available via Father's Online Library. Lee's short stories, The Catnip Caper and Sleeping Beauty, are available via Father's Online Library. Her story Absolution appeared in the TUNNELCON II con 'zine; Vincent, I Don't Think We're in Verona Anymore, appeared in MacWombat Press' OLD SOULS. Becky's individual work can be ordered as follows: ETERNITY and ETERNITY 2 are now out of print. ETERNITY 3 is $17 USA, $19 FC or CAN, $24 Europe. THE HAT ON THE BENCH IN CENTRAL PARK is $14 USA, $16 FC or CAN, $20 Europe. Order from: Becky Bain, 16845 Hightree Drive, Elbert CO 80106, or Email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. Becky's short stories have appeared in WITHIN THE CRYSTAL ROSE Vols. 5 (Star Light, Star Bright, under the pseudonym Anna Gerard), 6 (Riches, also under Anna Gerard), 7 (Little Boy Lost), and 8 (The Choice) all available from Mountain Rose Press, MacWombat Press' BEST MIRRORS (Not Ever), in the GREAT EXPECTATIONS con 'zine (Fairy Time), the TUNNELCON III con 'zine (Green Eyed), the REFLECTIONS con 'zine (Forsaken), and THE HAT ON THE BENCH IN CENTRAL PARK (The Lucky Cap).