Chapter 12 Donna was in her quarters, reading a book in her easy chair, the radio nearby set to an easy-listening station. As the singer crooned on about love, Donna's thoughts drifted away from the story she had been reading. It was hard to believe that the baby would be coming any day now. She rested her hand on her large stomach. Feeling a gentle kick, she smiled. She missed Sam so much now. If it wasn't for the baby, she wouldn't have believed that Sam had come home at all. It had been so brief and rushed. No one had been more surprised than her, to find out that she was pregnant. The next few leaps had more pressing matters and her pregnancy was pushed toward the back of her mind. Then they had lost contact with Sam and she had gotten scared. She had wanted Al to tell Sam on that last leap, but something inside warned her not to. So she had followed her instincts and had told Al to say nothing. When Ziggy informed her that they had reestablished a connection with Sam, relief had flooded over her. She had almost gone to check on the Visitor, just to see who Sam had replaced this time and also to prove to herself that her husband was still alive. But without Al nearby, she decided not to go. She had come to count on Al alot lately, not just with him holding his tongue about her pregnancy, but with the little things that Sam should have been there to do as well. He had given her his word, and the last few leaps before the lost contact, he had said nothing to Sam about the baby. He was an angel sometimes, she had to admit, even through the rough exterior he let others see. Al had helped her through the morning sickness, which in her case had lasted all day, and through the backaches, cravings, and general grumpiness she tended to fall upon sometimes when the going got tough. He had even offered to be there when the baby was born. She had declined that offer, knowing that his place was with Beth, and hoping that her own husband would be home for the big event. Talk about fantasizing. She sighed. The baby kicked a few more times, before settling down again. Donna had found out a month ago that the baby she was carrying was a boy. She had intended to wait until the birth to find out the sex, but the doctor had to run an amniocentesis test because of Donna's age. 43 wasn't exactly young to be having your first child, and complications could arise. The test had been a precaution. The results had come back negative, and the doctor had inadvertently let slip the sex of the child while telling her. Her momentary anger had vanished when she realized how happy Sam would be. He had always wanted a son. Donna put down the book she was reading. She couldn't concentrate on it right now. She really should be working on a new proposal to try to get more funding. Now that they had found Sam, money was going to be needed badly. She got up to get a drink, the background music soothing her, as some singer sang of letting your troubles slip away. It was getting harder and harder to maneuver around her quarters as she got closer to her due date. She had seen her doctor three days ago. Her due date was three days away, on August 18th. If she didn't go into labor soon, Dr. Marshall would induce. Donna helped herself to a glass of apple juice from her small fridge. She was heading back to the living room when someone knocked on her door. "Come in." Al opened the door and stepped inside. "Hi, Al!" She greeted cheerily. He smiled at her before giving her a friendly hug. "How are you doing tonight?" She shrugged. "Best as can be expected." She looked down. "It will be nice to see my feet again." Al laughed. "How long now?" "Anyday. If I don't go into labor soon, I'll be induced. Frankly, I'll be happy to get it over with." She struggled to sit on the couch and Al was at her side in seconds, easing her down. "Thanks." She grinned wryly. He sat on the sofa next to her and watched her shift around trying to get comfortable. He handed her a pillow to place behind her back. "Donna... " he began. She placed her juice down on the end table. "What is it, Al?" A thought occurred to her. "Is Sam okay?" "Sam's fine, he was relaxing when I left." "Then what is it?" Al hedged a bit. He wanted another cigar, but he refused to smoke around Donna. "It's about this leap." He looked straight at Donna. "He asked about kids." "Did you tell him?" "No." "Thank you." She let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. "I think you should reconsider." "Why? It would only hurt him." She had gone over this many times in her head. To her the cons outweighed the pros. "Because he is the father. He has a right to know." She shook her head. "No. It is my decision." The radio started belting out a tune that she really wasn't fond of, and Donna considered turning it off, but that would mean getting up again. She glared at it from across the room, wishing the annoying song would end. She turned her attention back to Al. Al stood. "Well, you don't have to be the one to face him when he plays twenty questions." He knew it was low of him to bring it up, but his frustration had gotten the better of him. He instantly regretted the words. She flinched, but her tone remained neutral. "Evade him." Al shrugged. "It's not as easy as it used to be. He knows me too well. I can't just lie to him anymore. He corners me everytime. It seems like the swiss-cheesing is becoming less with each leap." Donna looked skeptical. Al sat back down. "Donna. Listen to me. Please." Donna could hear the pleading in his voice. She wondered exactly what went on in the Imaging Chamber. There was a time when she was jealous of Al, as he got to see more of Sam than she did. It just hadn't seemed fair to her then. She had been tempted to go in the Imaging Chamber on more than one occasion. A couple of times she had almost pleaded to Al to go with him. Especially when Sam was in danger. But she had given in to logic and stayed away. She had come to terms with her husband's absence. As much as she missed him, she couldn't bear it if he saw her and didn't remember. But the little digs did still hurt. "I'm listening." "He wants something to hold on to. Something besides me to remind him of Home." Al shifted on the sofa to better face her. "He is lonely. I give him what little bits of information I am allowed, but sometimes it just isn't enough. Do you understand?" Donna knew all to well about loneliness. The annoying song had finally ended. The announcer was babbling on. She tuned the noise out. "What would you have me do? Step into the Chamber with you?" She looked directly at Al. "I can see how it would be tough to go on leap after leap. But there is nothing I can do!" Her voice rose an octave at the end. "Just let me tell him about the baby. Let him know he has a son." Al stated simply. He was the only one who knew the sex of the child other than Donna. Donna's eyes shone with unshed tears. She wanted Sam to know. Really she did. She composed her thoughts. "Then he would know that he WAS home." She brought up her one valid point. "It would open up a new can of worms." Al considered this. "I know. I'd deal with it." Damn simo-leap again. Donna turned away from Al. She fought the tears threatening to fall. She glanced at her glass of juice. Beads of condensation dripped down the side. Just like tears. She was no longer thirsty. "Donna, don't shut me out." Al's voice was thick with emotion. He placed his hands on her arms. The radio kicked into another song. Kenny Rogers. Donna knew she should have shut it off before. This song had played at her wedding. The words rang in her head. 'Through the years, you've never let me down-you've turned my life around-the sweetest days I've found, I've found with you' She could feel the warmth of his hands through her light shirt. She fought the impulse to stand. She needed Sam so bad. It had been so long since she had been held in love. A lone tear escaped and tracked its way down her cheek. She turned to say something to him, but the expression on his face caught her by surprise. He had dropped his 'mask' that he usually wore. The one where he convinces everyone that he is fine, and life is fine, thank you very much. On his face now was a time-weary expression of pain. One she had never seen on him before. One that bespoke of many days and nights in the Imaging Chamber worrying about Sam. One that was tortured by not being able to give his best friend anything but promises. One that said all he wanted was to give something back to Sam. A little bit of hope. A little slice of Home. The only gift he could give Sam. The news of his son. The radio crooned on in the background. "I swear, you've taught me everything I know-Can't imagine needing someone so, but through the years it seems to me I need you more and more-Through the years, through all the good and bad-I've always been so glad to be with you' His hand reached up and wiped away the tear on her cheek Gently. The caress of a friend. Donna couldn't take it any longer. She fell into his arms sobbing. Crying for the husband she couldn't have. The man who wouldn't be around to see his son born. Al held her and stroked her back. He let her cry her heart out. She had needed this release for a while. It hurt him to see her putting on a brave face all the time. He knew deep inside she must be hurting bad. It had been difficult for Beth when their first daughter was born. They had been so young then and scared themselves. It wasn't easy to become a parent. And there had been two of them. He could only begin to understand what Donna was going through by herself. He pulled her closer to him and held her as he imagined Sam would. Her tears didn't seem to have an end. She cried for all the nights she had spent alone. She cried for all the years lost. She cried until her eyes were swollen and her nose was stuffed. Once the dam had opened, all the hurt and pain had come out. She was scared, damn it! This was her first baby, and she was scared. Afraid that she wouldn't be a good mother, afraid that her baby would grow up without a father. She held on to Al and sobbed deeper into his chest. "Shhhh..." He soothed, when her tears finally began to let up. "It's gonna be all right." He spoke in a quiet, gentle tone. He reached into the pocket of his jacket and withdrew a handkerchief and handed it to her. The song had ended and another one had begun. Al didn't recognize it, but this one was singing about saving time in a bottle. The words were reassuring, comforting. 'If I could save time in a bottle-The first thing that I'd like to do-Is to save everyday till eternity passes away so I could spend them with you' Donna took the handkerchief and blew her nose. It helped a little. She sat up and looked at Al. The expression on his face had changed to one of concern. "Feel better?" he asked her. She nodded. "A little." She looked at his shirt which was soaked with her tears. "I'm sorry," she began to apologize. "Don't." he said simply. She tried to imagine what she must look like to him right now. Her face all swollen, to match her swollen belly. The mental picture made her grin. She blew her nose again, as it was beginning to run. He could tell the crying had worn her out. She looked exhausted now more than ever. He remembered Beth telling him over and over again that the last weeks of her pregnancies were the worst, as she really couldn't find a comfortable position in which to sleep. Donna yawned once, and Al took that as a sign that it was time to leave. He gave her a comforting hug and let her go. "I'm gonna go now. Will you be okay?" Donna yawned again. She was so tired. The crying had left her emotionally wrung out and physically drained. She lay back against a pillow cushion, meaning just to rest her eyes for a moment. "Uh-huh." she managed to mumble. Al got up and stretched Donna's legs out. She shifted somewhat, but was already asleep. Al went to the bedroom and retrieved a blanket. He stopped by the radio and turned it off. Donna needed her sleep. He covered her with the blanket. She was snoring lightly. He bent down and brushed the bangs from her forehead, ever so lightly, and placed a kiss there. "That one's from Sam, kid." He watched her for a moment to make sure she was comfortable. Seeing her relax into a deeper sleep, he turned out the lights and quietly left her quarters. He stretched and yawned, then headed for his own.