Chapter 1 Al awoke and reached over for Beth. His hand encountered the empty bed. He slowly opened his eyes. "Beth?" he called out sleepily. Silence greeted him. Al sat up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. "Beth?" He looked around the room. Empty. He got up and walked out to what passed for the living room in their quarters. It wasn't large, but it was sufficient for when he had to stay at the Project. Beth was not there either. Al looked up. "Ziggy?" he addressed the ceiling. He knew she was listening. Ziggy had sensors in all the main crew quarters as well as the Imaging Chamber and Waiting Room. Most rooms had hookups to Ziggy in one form or another. "Good Morining, Admiral." the sultry voice of the computer responded. "Did you sleep well?" Al snorted. "Hmph. Where is Beth?" He entered the bathroom and ran the water for a hot shower. "Mrs. Calavicci is in the Commissary with Dr. Beeks." Al undresssed and got in, the steamy water playing on his back. "Okay. Thanks, Ziggy." The computer was not easily dismissed. "Shall I inform them you will be joining them?" Al shampooed his hair, working the suds into a rich lather. "That will not be necessary." He rinsed the bubbles down the drain, wishing all his problems could be washed away that easily. He was soaping up his body when he heard Ziggy's next comment. "Nice legs, Admiral." "Ziggy!" he warned sternly. "You know better." The computer adopted a pouty tone. "Simo-leaping with Dr. Beckett has not had a positive effect on you. You were never this prudish before." Al remembered the Leap Ziggy was referring to. In trying to get Sam to Leap from Havenwell Hospital, a bolt of lightning had struck them, causing Sam and Al to switch places. Sam had been home then. Before they could all rejoice, Sam had to Leap again to save Al's life. Al still felt guilty each time he saw Donna. She had her husband for less than a day before he left her again to save his ass. He did leave her with a parting gift, she was pregnant. Donna didn't hold resentment against Al. He tried to be there as much as possible for her, to make up for Sam's absence. It wasn't the same, but he hoped it would be enough. Al wondered sometimes if he would have made the same choice. It bothered him that he really didn't know. He finished the shower and cut off the water. He grabbed the nearest towel and began to dry himself off. Wrapping the towel around his waist, he walked back to the bedroom and over to his closet. Opening the door, a rainbow of colors greeted him. He chose a lime-green suit, yellow suspenders and a white shirt with a yellow diamond pattern on it. He laid the clothes out on the bed and went to shave and comb his hair. Finishing that task, he dressed quickly and checked his reflection in the mirror. Satisfied at last, he left the quarters. Al was not looking forward to another day in the Imaging Chamber. Especially after the nightmare last night. He thought dark thoughts as he headed towards the Commissary. He was tired, so very tired. All the searching and still no Sam. He wasn't ready to conceed defeat yet. Not by a long shot. Sighing, he banished those thoughts from his mind as he entered the project's large dining area. The room was partially full with technicians and military personel getting breakfast. He spotted Verbena and Beth in one corner of the room. They were talking softly and laughing. The smell of bacon and eggs floated through the air and made Al's mouth water. His stomach rumbled loudly as he stepped up to their table. "MMMMMM. Yummola." He swiped a piece of bacon off Beth's plate. Beth looked up. She smiled and stood. "Morning, Love. I let you sleep in. I hope you didn't mind. You had a rough night last night and you needed the sleep." She kissed him. "Do you want some breakfast?" He kissed her back. Her lips tasted delicious. And it wasn't because of the bacon. "No, no breakfast just yet. I will have a cup of coffee, please." He smiled sweetly at her. She nodded and went to fill him a cup. Al sat in the chair opposite Verbena. "Any luck?" Verbena shook her head, and Al watched her gold earrings dance. The gold accentuated her dark beauty. Not many black women could wear gold the way Verbena did. She was stunning, Al thought and he had to force his mind back to what she was saying. "No, still no sign of Sam." That was when he noticed the bags under her eyes that foretold a sleepless night of her own. She sipped her coffee. "Al, " she began, not sure how to broach the subject. Al heard her tone and his defenses went up. "Bena, Don't start. I'm not giving up on Sam." "I'm not suggesting that you give up." "Well I won't, so don't even think it." "Just maybe take a break. You have been going non-stop, you need some rest." "Verbena, we have been through this how many times now?" He raised a finger and pointed it at her. "Until we check EVERY MINUTE of EVERY DAY," his tone was so demanding, that it left Verbena speechless for a moment. "I will not believe he is truly gone." Beth returned with Al's coffee. "Al. You said you would talk to Verbena." she noted pointedly. Al took the cup. "Thanks." He added some sugar and stirred. "Beth, " he began. Beth put her foot down. Hard. "Enough is enough. The nightmares are getting more frequent." She rested one hand on Al's shoulder. "And I'm getting worried." She spoke softly, as she sat in the chair next to his. He covered her hand with his. He relented then. "Okay. You win." He sipped his coffee. "Just one day." Where had he heard that phrase before? A brief memory surface. Sam playing basketball with his brother Tom. 'Just give me one day' Sam had said. 'The 8th of April.' Al looked from Verbena to Beth. "What do you want of me?" Verbena had been carefully observing Al. "Al, no one wants to find Sam more than you. We all know that, and have accepted that." She finished her coffee and placed her cup down. Glancing over to Beth, who gave her a small nod, she chose her next words carefully. "You are wearing yourself out. You cannot help Sam if you don't take care of Yourself." She put emphasis on the last word. He looked down at his coffee. Despair was in his voice when he spoke. "It has been almost 9 months now. It has never been this long." Beth hugged him. "Sweetheart, everyone is concerned. And no one will give up." He looked up at Beth at her words. She was still so beautiful. He felt his heart quicken just looking in her lovely face. She had her dark hair down today instead of the normal braid she usually wore during working hours. He wanted to run his hands through her hair, feel the silky softness of it on his fingers. One day.... the words echoed in his mind. Verbena saw Al's indecision. She took his hand. "Take some time off. Rest. Relax." She looked at Beth. "Enjoy." A hint of a smile played at her lips. Al started to protest. "But..." "Doctor's orders." Al sighed. He knew when he was outnumbered. "Okay. However I want to be informed IMMEDIATELY if there is any change." Beth smiled. "You will be the first to know." Ziggy chose that moment to pipe up. "Mrs. Calavicci that is an untrue statement." The computer huffed with superiority. "I will be the first to know." Verbena laughed. "Can it, Ziggy!" "I fail to see the humor, Dr. Beeks," Ziggy groused. Al felt a small wieght lift off his shoulders. He reached for a blueberry muffin from a basket on the table. Time off was just what he needed. Don't worry, Sam, I won't forget about you, he thought. He buttered the muffin lightly. He turned to Beth as he took a bite. "So what do you want to do today?" Beth grinned from ear to ear. "How does Vegas sound?" Al laughed. "Oh boy!"