Chapter 23 Al marched down the ramp of the Imaging Chamber. It was early evening now. His stomach rumbled hungrily. It had been a while since lunch. Al was tired and weary. He had sat by Sam's bedside, talking for a bit and watching the doctors and nurses come and go. There had been no change in Sam's condition the entire time. Not that Al had expected one. He didn't know why he had stayed so late, but he couldn't bring himself to leave. It wasn't until he caught himself nodding off in the chair that he had gotten up the will to leave. He relinquished the handlink to Gooshie. The man looked as tired as Al felt. Black circles were starting to appear under the programmer's eyes. Al knew that monitoring was difficult sometimes, even under the best circumstances. "Gooshie, you should turn in. You look beat." The handlink had dissapeared into Ziggy's main console and Gooshie was checking the data between it and Ziggy. "I will, Admiral. Right after I finish downloading this data." He rubbed a weary hand across his eyes. Al shook his head. How Gooshie could stay up all night playing with Ziggy was beyond him. Especially with Tina waiting. He nodded goodnight and headed off to his quarters. Beth was waiting for him with a mug of hot chocolate. Al took the mug and drank a sip of the velvety fluid. It warmed him from the inside out. Placing the mug on an end table, Al nearly fell into the nearest chair. Beth came up behind him and put her hands on his neck. She began to massage in slow circles, releasing some of his pent up frustration. Al moaned quietly, surprised at how good that felt. He was more tense than he had realized. He hung his head down so she could reach his neck better. "How is Sam doing?" she questioned as her fingers probed a particularly tight muscle. "No change. The doctors think that paralysis could be involved." He shuddered slightly at the thought. Beth placed a gentle kiss on his neck. "Let's hope for the best." She finished his neck and came around to face him. "I called the hospital in Alamagordo while you were with Sam." He brought his head up sharply. Donna. How could he forget about Donna? "How is she doing?" He started to stand. Beth put a restraining hand on his shoulder. "Just fine. She is checked into room 316. The baby is healthy. 7lbs 4oz. You can visit her tomorrow." She pushed him back into the chair and gave him back the mug of hot chocolate. "Right now, you are going to relax, and I'll get you something to eat." Al sipped gingerly. In spite of the rumbling in his stomach, he really didn't want to eat. He wanted to sleep. He removed his jacket. "I'm not really hungry." He protested. She frowned at him. "Are you sure? Not even a sandwich?" "Not right now." He finished the hot drink. "I'm too tired to bother." He removed his vest and laid it on top of his jacket. She helped him stand then. "Well, it's off to bed with you. No protesting." She turned out the lights as she led him off to the bedroom. Al was too exhausted to even try. He let her lead him and sank into the bed when it appeared in his view. He was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. Beth smiled down at her sleeping husband. If it wasn't for the dire situation they were now in, she would be laughing. Al never went to bed fully dressed anymore. She gently removed his shoes and placed them under the bed. Pulling the covers up and over him, she kissed him goodnight, then went to get ready for bed herself. ************************ Al was dreaming. Or at least he hoped he was. He was once again at the scene of the accident. He could see Sam's car heading down the road. He waved his arms to get Sam's attention. "SAAAAAAM!! NO!! Oh God NO!!" He watched as the black car swerved into Sam's path. Once again the car struck Sam's. Al watched in horror as the scene played out once again in his mind. He saw Sam's head bounce off the steering wheel and whiplash backward. He saw the other people strike the windows and bounce around like rag dolls. He watched helplessly as the car spun around and flipped over before coming to rest. He screamed at the sky. "Why, God? Why?" He watched uselessly as Sam was removed and CPR was begun. "NOOOO!!!" He tried to help but his hands went through his best friend. "NNOOOOO!!" He screamed... "Oh God...Nooo......Please, not Sam. Don't do this!" Blood was everywhere, Sam's torn body was dying. "NOOOOOOOOO!!" Al sat upright in bed. Panic raced through his body and his stomach clenched. He threw the covers aside and raced for the bathroom. He barely made it before the retching began. Beth had heard his scream and had jumped up. She was about to ask what was wrong when he bolted out of bed and ran for the bathroom. Hearing him inside, she was concerned. This wasn't like Al. She heard the toilet flush and the water in the sink run. He emerged a few minutes later, shaky and pale. "Al? What's wrong? You okay?" She reached for him as he stumbled back into bed. He had begun to shiver. He crawled under the covers and curled up next to her. "I'll be fine. Bad dream s'all." He held her closely, trying to ward off the chill that was seeping into his bones. She placed a hand on his head. It was warm, slightly feverish. She untangled herself from his clutch. "Al, you're running a temperature. I'm going to get you some Tylenol." He whimpered as she got up. She retrieved the medicine, and the heavy quilt from the closet. After giving him the capsules, she covered him up to help break the fever that was beginning to overtake him. She slid back under the covers with him. "Shhh.. It'll be okay." She soothed quietly, stroking his hair as the shivering continued. He had curled up under the covers, trying to get warm. He mumbled incoherently as he slid back towards sleep. Most of what he said was jumbled. But she did make out a word or two. "Sam." He had spoken the name once before falling back asleep. The shivering was letting up some as his dreams overcame him once again. Beth kissed Al once on the cheek and turned out the lights. She made sure he was comfortable before turning back to go to sleep herself.