Chapter 14 The sandwiches and chips were gone. The apartment had been cleaned and organized. Hours had passed since Susan had appeared at the door. As a result, Sam found himself spending the rest of his time watching television and waiting for his partner. The news was full of recaps of the bicentennial celebrations that had occurred earlier that month and that were still continuing. Sam didn't recall any kind of celebrations in July of 1976. He had been absorbed in his studies while, at the same time, working full-time in a laboratory, making his name known the world over. He had had little interest in the frivolities of the year. "I don't remember any of this either, if that's any consolation." Sam forced himself not to jump at the voice, thankful to hear it after so many hours. "How's Bingo?" he asked with concern. Al accepted the nickname readily, knowing it would help prevent confusion with nouns and pronouns. "He doesn't go by 'Bingo' anymore," Al told Sam, just for knowledge sake. "Verbina's with him now, trying to convince him that psychiatrists are not the enemy." Sam gave him a sad smile. It didn't really surprise him. Al had never been very trusting of psychiatrists until he met Verbina Beeks and, even then, he tended to keep his personal life very personal. The only times he ever went to Verbina was when something was seriously bothering him. "Do you think that she'll have any luck with him?" Al shrugged. "I don't know. I hope so." Sam nodded a bit in agreement. If anyone needed help, it was Al Calavicci during this time of his life. "So, has Ziggy figured out what I'm here to do?" Al hesitated. "Well, she has a theory but she's completely off the mark this time." Sam finally looked at Al, questioning in his eyes. "Why? What does she say?" "She says you're here to get me to marry Susan," Al answered with a bit of a sneer. "And what's wrong with that?" The Admiral looked at Sam firmly. "I don't want to marry her, Sam. It would be a mistake for me to marry her." "Why?" Sam asked bluntly. "Because she looks like Beth!" Al exclaimed as if it were obvious. "It wouldn't be fair to her if I married her, Sam. I don't want to marry someone just because she looks like the woman I married before." Sam looked at him carefully. "Is that really the reason? Or is it because you're afraid of the truth?" "What truth?" Al challenged him. Sam gave him a sympathetic look. "That you really were in love with Susan." Al frowned. "That's ridiculous, Sam." The expression that he could not keep from his eyes, however, said otherwise. "Then, what do you think I here to do?" "To get Angela some professional help." Al told him firmly. "She's a sick woman, Sam. And Susan knows it." Sam stood and looked at Al firmly. "Wouldn't you marrying Susan contribute to that?" "No, it wouldn't," Al insisted. "Sam, I had talked Susan out of putting Angela in a hospital where she belongs. I was blinded by my own experiences concerning Trudy. If anything, it will keep Angela from getting any therapy at all." Sam continues to look carefully at Al, looking into those brown eyes that could not keep the truth from him. "You still love Susan, don't you?" "What?" "You still love Susan. You claim you almost married her because she reminded you of Beth but that isn't the entire truth. Is it?" Al glared at him. "Sam, listen to me, will you? I didn't really love Susan. I loved Beth and Susan was just a convenient replacement to me." Sam shook his head. "I don't believe you. I can see it in your eyes, Al. Susan was more than just a replacement. You loved her. So, why didn't you marry her?" Al avoided Sam's gaze. "How many times do I have to tell you that I didn't marry her because she looked…" "Al," Sam interrupted him. "Try looking into my eyes and saying that. Al focused on his eyes as requested. "I didn't marry Susan because…" He stopped, apparently unwilling to go further. "Because…" Sam pressured firmly yet gently. Al diverted his eyes quickly, focusing on inputting the exiting sequence into the handlink. He ignored Sam's requests that he stay and talk, stepping through the Imaging Chamber door and into his present. Sam nodded slightly at Al's Actions, knowing that they meant Sam had hit the mark. Al was indeed still in love with Susan. However, there was something plaguing Al about his relationship with her, something he obviously deeply regretted. Sam was certain that Al would tell him soon, hopefully before Sam changed Al's history. The one thing Sam didn't want to do was to change his best friend's life for the worst. ------------------ The moment Al stepped out of the Imaging Chamber, he marched to the peaceful quiet of Sam's office. He knew it was the only place he would truly be able to be alone. No one else ever went there. Even he didn't dare go into the scientist's office unless he really really wanted to be alone. The office was often far too depressing. It was a reminder of how long Sam had been away from his home in the future - far too long, in Al's opinion. He wanted Sam home. He wanted him to be sitting on the other side of the desk, listening to him, drinking with him, and sobering him up the next day if necessary. Somehow, Al felt he couldn't talk to Sam like he once did across the wooden desk in this office. It just wasn't the same. Al sat in the chair he had sat in so many times before and looked across at the empty chair on the other side of the desk. "You're right, kid," he told the chair, or rather to the presence he still felt that sat in that chair. "I still love her. Now, what the hell do I do about it?" It was amazing how horribly love could hurt a regretful soul.