APRIL 1973

	Sabina knocked on Al's door.  She looked at Janet, the chaplain, and the
medical officer as she waited for a response.

	"Come in."

	Sabina entered, alone.

	Al was standing in front of the open wardrobe, using the mirror mounted on
the door to adjust the service ribbons on his khaki uniform.  It lacked
only his rank insignia.  The Army's Clothing Sales Store had run out of the
smaller gold oak leaf that the Navy used for their uniforms.  Sabina had to
send someone to the Naval Station at Pearl for more sets.

	She handed a set to him, and he nodded his thanks.

	The latest uniform regulation lay open on the bed and Al referred to it
for proper placement of his rank.

	They still hadn't told him about Beth.  He still asked about her, but
those he asked could not give him an answer.  The flowers he had asked to
be sent had arrived.  Adam had told Sabina he had read Al's note to Beth.
This had shocked her.  It wasn't something she expected from the admiral.

	The past week had been hard for both Sabina and Janet.  The two women had
begun to rely on each other.  They now called each other by first name,
when out of uniform, and a friendship was beginning.  Tragedy has a way of
bringing people together.

	Al's uniform was complete and he shut the wardrobe door.  He surveyed the
room, checking to see if he missed any personal belongings.  His sea bag
was packed and ready their flight to San Diego.

	It was time to tell him the truth.

	Sabina took a deep breath.  "Al, there's something we need to tell you."

	Al stared at her, startled.  Since their first meeting last week, she had
referred to him by his rank, or sir, only.  The use of his first name
caught his attention.

	She went to the door and signaled for Janet, and Janet only, to come into
the room.  Al watched her in confusion.

	"I think you should sit, Al," Sabina advised, gently.  He made no move to

	Janet was already losing her composure, and for the first time, Sabina's
anger could not shield her from the pain.

	"Approximately two weeks ago, maybe a little more," she started.  "Beth
was . . . shot  . . . point blank  . . . by a college student."

	The healthy color that had just recently returned to his complexion began
to drain away as her words sank in.

	Sabina swallowed, her throat tightening.  "She's in a coma, and no one
knows if she'll pull through.  There is a small chance, but it doesn't look

	Al sat heavily on the edge of the bed.  He looked like he was having
trouble breathing.  Janet moved to his side.  She did not, however, touch him.

	"Why?" he managed.

	Unfortunately, he could mean anything by that.  "Why what?"

	"Why did you keep it from me?" he demanded, anger momentarily surpassing


	"Who's?" he continued, in the same tone.

	"Admiral Whitmore's," Janet replied tearfully.

	Al looked from one woman to the other.

	"Adam went to Balboa when he heard the news," Janet continued.  "He kept
them from taking her off the life supports because he knew you were already
on your way home."

	"And he told Kelly that he didn't want you to come home to another
headstone," Sabina added.

	Al closed his eyes.  Sabina could see the tears roll down his cheeks.

	"Beth didn't know, Al, that you were coming home," Janet added, her voice
barely above a whisper.

	"Leave," he said, his voice laced with pain.

	It looked like Janet wanted to stay, but Sabina grabbed her arm, and the
pair left him alone with his grief.

APRIL 1973

	The plane ride to San Diego seemed endless, but Al barely noticed.  He sat
lost in his memories of Beth.  He barely acknowledged the existence of his
companions, Janet and Sabina, unless it was for medication or to follow
them numbly to the waiting limo Adam had sent to meet them.

	Al sat alone in the back seat.  Janet and Sabina sat on the jumper seat,
facing him.  He avoided their eyes and kept his face turned toward the
window.  His heart ached and he felt empty.  Part of him still refused to
believe what they had told him.  And that part had kept him together since
he recovered from the initial shock.

	After they had left him alone in his hospital room, Al broke down and
cried.  He hadn't cried like that since the time he told Beth about Trudy,
and this time wasn't there to comfort him.  His initial anger toward Adam
had diminished.  Adam's actions had given Al the chance to hold his Beth,
one last time, to kiss her good-bye, to say he was sorry, and to tell her
he loved her.

	Another part of him believed she could still pull through and wake up.
For that, Al was grateful for Adam's intervention.  There was a small
glimmer of a possibility she would come out of the coma, and Al clung to
that with his life.

	The familiar landmarks near Balboa registered in his mind and Al shook

	The limo pulled up in front of the hospital, and Al and his companions
stepped out.  Since the limo belonged to Adam, there was no need to take
the luggage with them.

	Al felt rooted to the spot.  How many times, since they'd been assigned to
San Diego, had he come to this hospital to see Beth?  Janet touched his arm
and he reluctantly moved forward.  Sabina took the lead, since she knew
exactly where to go.  Janet kept pace with Al.

	Several vaguely familiar faces passed him.  He could see the shock and
grief on their faces and in their eyes when they recognized him.

	When Sabina began to slow, Al knew they were getting close to her room.
Up ahead, blocking their path, was a red headed nurse Al almost didn't

	"Kelly," he said, amazement finding a way through his grief.

	"Al." She couldn't quite meet his eyes.

	Al looked at the closed door, his legs suddenly turning to rubber.

	"Admiral Whitmore is with her," Kelly said, quietly.  "He's watched over
her for you."

	Al nodded and Kelly opened the door.

	The Admiral looked up when the door opened and he met Al's gaze.  The
older man looked haggard and as grief-stricken as he felt, yet Adam still
managed to look grateful to see him.  He realized that Adam was holding her

	Al finally moved forward, alone, and the door closed behind him.  Al's
eyes were drawn to his wife's face.

	She looked so peaceful, so beautiful, that Al thought she was already
dead.  The machines and monitors, however, informed him otherwise.

	Adam moved out of his way and looked down at Beth.  "Al's here, Beth."
Adam reached for Al's hand and carefully placed Beth's in it.

	Al closed his hand over hers and sat down, his legs finally giving out.
His hand trembled as he smoothed her cheek.  The tears began to well up and
he couldn't breathe.

	Adam's hand rested on his shoulder.  "Talk to her, Al."

	"Beth," Al whispered. "Honey, I'm back.  I'm home now."  She didn't move.
That glimmer he held to began to fade.  "I want you to stay with me, Beth.
I don't want you to leave."  He paused, realizing she had used similar
words when he told her he was leaving for the second tour.  The tears were
rolling down his checks, but he continued.  "I want you to know that I was
thinking about starting a family, when the second tour ended.  I wanted to
make up for leaving you all alone." He swallowed.  "And to prove to you
that I wasn't afraid that you'd leave if things were tough."

	He felt Adam's hand grip his shoulder.  "You could've handled anything,
Beth.  I wish I'd have realized that sooner."  He leaned forwarded and
rested his head next to hers.  "I love you, Beth."

	And for the second time in less than forty-eight hours, Al broke down and

APRIL 26, 1973

	Adam watched as Al left the room, followed by Commanders Morgan and
Thomas.  Al had an appointment and those two were there to make sure he
kept it.

	Al had spent nearly every waking hour with Beth.  He didn't break down
again, like he did the first time, but Adam had seen the silent tears, and
when Al spoke to his wife, he would get choked up.

	Adam was the only person he allowed in the room with him.  Al poured out
his heart to his wife every day, often repeating himself.

	Beth's doctor entered.


	"Commander, I understand you wanted to speak to me?"

	"You and Lt. Cmdr Calavicci, sir.  I think it would be for the best if we
removed her from life support," he said with a pained expression.

	Adam sighed.  He had hoped that the sound of Al's voice and his touch
would reach through and bring her back, but there was no noticeable
improvement in her condition.  "So, there's no hope?"

	Dr. McNamara looked sad.  "No.  I wish I could be more optimistic, but . .
. I had a feeling when we almost lost her on the operating table that too
much damage had been done.  Maybe if we could've gotten to her sooner . . .
" The man shook his head.  "I'm going to miss her.  She was one of the best."

	Adam nodded.  "Let me talk to her husband first."

	Dr. McNamara nodded and headed for the door.

	"When do you plan to do this?"

	"Tomorrow," he replied, turning back to face him.

	"Commander, do you know what tomorrow is?"

	"Yes, sir.  Tomorrow is her birthday."  He glanced at her.  "The nurses
were planning a party for her, before this happened."

	Once he was alone, Adam returned to Beth's side.  "Well," he said,
touching her cheek, "this is probably the last time I'll speak to you alone."

	After listening to Al for days on end, telling her things he never told
her before, Adam finally resolved to tell her the truth.  Not exactly sure
where to start, he hesitated.  "Beth . . .  I want you to know how proud I
am of you.  My daughter," he murmured.  "I want you to know that I loved
your mother and regret not going back to find her sooner."  He paused
again. "I love you, my dearest child."

	Through the entire ordeal, from the moment he first learned of the
shooting, Adam had retained his composure.  As the realization sank in that
he was going to lose his daughter, the tears began to well up and silently
roll down his cheeks.

	He leaned over and tenderly kissed her forehead.


	Adam sat back, waiting for his words to sink in.

	"When?" Al asked, hoarsely.


	"Tomorrow is - -"

	"Yes, Al, I know.  I told him that."

	Al closed his eyes.  He was handling things a lot better than Adam had
expected.  He had expected Al to fly into a rage.

	Al opened his eyes again.  He caught Adam studying him, waiting for a

	Al nodded, resigned.  "I can't do this much longer, Adam," he said
wearily.  "She looks so peaceful.  If she came out of the coma, she might
be in pain for the rest of her life.  Janet said as much."  He shook his
head.  "I'd rather she be at peace than in pain.  I've seen too much of
*that* recently."  He reached over and straightened her blanket.  "And she
wouldn't want to be kept alive like this indefinitely, Adam.  It's
torturing me to see her like this."

	"Are you absolutely sure of this, Al?"

	"Yes, Adam."  There was no hesitation.

	Adam nodded.  "I understand, Al.  And I completely agree."

	Al looked over at him, eyes stricken.  "I'd like to be alone with her, for
a little while, Adam."

	He nodded.  "I'll get working on funeral arrangements, and have Commander
Morgan get Beth's uniform ready."

	"Thank you."  It was barely more than a whisper.

	Adam nodded and silently left the room.

	Dr. McNamara was waiting in the hallway.

	"He agrees.  You can take her off the supports tomorrow, Commander."

APRIL 27, 1973

	The day dawned bright and clear.  A beautiful spring day.  Spring was the
season of rebirth.  To Al, more than all the years in Vietnam put together,
it felt like the end.

	And in a sense, it was.  Not too long ago, his very reason for living was
his Beth.  And today, that reason would be taken from him completely.

	Many of the nurses he passed on his way to her room, looked like they had
spent part of the morning crying.  They all avoided meeting his eye.

	Adam had assembled his group of helpers, consisting of Janet, Kelly, and
Sabina, who had flown in from Washington late last night.  Al was grateful
for them.  They were overseeing the funeral arrangements.  This allowed him
to spend what little time they had left with Beth.  He nodded at them,
acknowledging their presence.

	With a bouquet of calla lilies in his arms, he disappeared into her room.

	Dr. McNamara was waiting for him.  The man wore a sorrowful expression.

	"She was a wonderful nurse, Commander Calavicci, and a wonderful person.
I want you to know, I hate having to do this."

	Al nodded, understanding.  The man had tried everything in his power to
keep her from slipping away from them, and he had even saved her life on
the operating table.  Al couldn't hold this last act against him.

	Putting the calla lilies aside for a moment, he took the release forms
from the doctor.  Al swallowed, painfully, hesitating.  Doubt suddenly
filled his mind and he looked over at her peaceful face.  The sight drove
all doubt away, and he signed the form.

	"Commander, it's quite possible that she'll go on living, even without the
life support equipment."

	"I understand."

	The doctor signaled for the technicians, and in a matter of minutes, the
systems were disconnected.  Only the heart monitor remained.  Her heart was
still beating.

	Dr.  McNamara and the others left him alone.

	Al sat on the bed holding her hands, listening to the monitor.

	He waited.

	Just before noon on her 37th birthday, Beth's heart stopped beating.

	Carefully placing her hands on her chest, Al kissed her lips.

	Before closing the door behind him, he glanced back once at her peaceful
face, and knew he had done the right thing.

Note:  End of flashbacks.  For now.  :)