Chapter 10 For almost two hours after Al ran out, Verbena had knelt, then sat on the floor of the Waiting Room, talking in soothing, reassuring tones before the battered woman wearing Sam's aura had stopped crying. It had taken another forty-five minutes before she allowed the psychiatrist to touch her and then she'd clung to Verbena, cowering against her; she was still shaking almost as violently as when she'd first appeared. "Ziggy?" Verbena said very softly. "Yes, Doctor Beeks?" the computer's voice was equally hushed. "Have one of the female nurses bring me a syringe with one milligram of Valium, i.m.," Verbena said quietly. Remembering a time from her own childhood when she'd been badly frightened, Verbena did what her mother had done to calm and reassure her. Moving slowly so as not to alarm the new visitor, she shifted her arms a bit, cradling the young woman against her. Then she began to gently rock, softly humming one of the lullabies that her mother had sung to her. Another twenty minutes passed before Tommie finally was quiet, her soft steady breathing letting Verbena know she had finally relaxed into sleep. "Doctor Beeks, do you require anything else?" Verbena was about to say no, when something occurred to her, and she glanced down at the young woman nestled against her. "Yes. I want a secure cover put over the table in here. I don't think she can handle seeing the reflection." Twenty minutes later Verbena was standing beside the solitary bed in the Waiting Room, studying the battered young woman now sleeping fitfully, aided by the shot of Valium. She also kept a watchful eye on the two male technicians working on the reflecting table top, but they weren't just covering it. Dr. Beeks had changed her mind, and had ordered the table to be removed entirely from the room; a slightly smaller, ordinary table had been brought in to replace it temporarily. As ordered, the men worked in silence; the loudest sound in the Waiting Room was the soft 'whoosh' when the doors opened and closed. When the technicians signaled that they were finished, Verbena nodded, watching them leave. She stayed with the battered visitor a few more minutes, making sure Tommie was sleeping quietly, then made her exit. ------------------------------------- Back at the Emerson house ------------------------------------- Shifting his position slightly so he was facing Derek, but still see Al's face without turning his head, Sam said hesitantly, "I...uh...I don't ...remember." "We can't tell," Al said, slapping the handlink. "Gooshie says that Verbena's just barely got Tommie calmed down with..." he looked closely at the small display. "..uh, oh geez Louise!" He shot a 'you-aren't-gonna- like-this' glance at Sam. "He says that Verbena just gave her a shot of Valium, and she's sleeping." Seeing his wife's eyes repeatedly darting to an area of thin air slightly to his right, Derek came to his own conclusion. Turning away, he walked out of the room but returned a moment later, a prescription bottle in his uninjured hand. Taking heed of the knife his wife still held warningly in front of herself, Derek walked slowly toward her. Stopping about six feet away, he held out the bottle and ordered, "Here. Take your pill." He started to move forward to hand the bottle to Sam, but stopped when his wife's posture became even more defensive. "Throw it to me," Sam said sharply, deftly catching the small bottle Derek tossed to him. He watched Derek turn around and take a glass from one of the cupboards above the counter, then fill it from the faucet. When he turned back to face Sam, he seemed surprised that his wife hadn't moved. "Tommie, you know what Dr. Gleason said," Derek said in a quiet, yet distinctly impatient tone. When she didn't respond, he went on. "If you don't take your medicine like you're supposed to, you'll wind up back on the third floor at Charity...again. " He watched his wife watching him for a moment, the held out the glass of water. Al was ahead of Sam, punching buttons on the handlink so hard his fingers hurt. "Umm...okay, let's see...oh geez," he muttered. Looking up at Sam he said, "That's the psychiatric unit at Charity Hospital." He punched more buttons. "Ziggy tapped into Tommie's medical records. Seems she's been a 'guest' there on four different occasions in the last five years." Seeing the slight frown furrowing his friend's forehead, Al said, "Tommie was diagnosed about five years ago with moderate depression. According to her records, she also suffers from occasional bouts of severe anxiety. Which is why her psychiatrist, Dr. Norman Gleason, prescribed Lithium..." he pointed at the bottle in Sam's hand, "for her." Quickly he punched in another query on the handlink. "She's been on it for the last five years." Sam shot a desperate look at Al that said almost as plainly as words, *I can't take this.* The Observer read his friend's eyes immediately. "Palm the pill, Sam," Al said. When he saw Sam's confusion, he said, "Okay, never mind that. Take a pill out of the bottle, but when you set it down, miss the counter so it falls on the floor. Then, while slimeball's attention is diverted, drop the pill in the sink, drink the water and pour the rest out to wash the pill down the drain." A small part of Al's mind thought it was silly to have to spell out such an obvious diversion. But the street-wise part of himself knew that Sam wasn't used to dealing with someone like Derek, and right now his friend needed his full attention on the injured man watching him with the intensity of a snake focused on prey. The ploy worked. The pill bottle hit the floor near Sam's feet, scattering the pills wildly, and Derek jumped almost reflexively as if to avoid being touched by the flying medication. The instant Derke's attention was diverted, Sam dropped the pill down the drain, swallowed half the water in the glass and poured the rest in the sink. Setting the glass on the counter with a thump, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and demanded, "There. You satisfied?" Standing in the kitchen doorway, Derek watched his wife, his anger plain. When he spoke, it wasn't to reply to Sam. "Pick this stuff up, then get your purse." "What for?" Sam asked suspiciously, never breaking eye contact with Derek. "Unless you want me to call the cops and tell them you attacked me with a knife," Derek spat, "you're gonna drive me to the hospital. You're invisible friend..." he said derisively, "is probably right about me needing stitches." He glanced down at the blood-soaked dishtowel wrapped around his hand, wincing as his hand throbbed even harder, then back to his wife. "Pick up your medicine," he said sharply, "it's too damned expensive to waste. And be quick about it. I'll wait in the car," he said darkly, then turned and stalked out of the house. Only when the front door slammed shut did Sam allow himself to relax. The knife clattered to the floor as Sam closed his eyes and sagged against the counter. His heart pounded in his chest and his hands trembled as he took a long shaky breath. Opening his eyes, Sam held his hands out and watched them shake, then looked at Al who had moved closer to him. "That's the adrenaline pouring into your system," he explained unnecessarily. "Right now you've got so much of it in you, you could probably punch a hole in the wall and never feel it." Al didn't give Sam a chance to voice the uncertainty he saw in his friend's eyes. "Do what he said, Sam," he ordered firmly. "Pick up Tommie's medicine, and then get him to the hospital." Again Al replied to the question he sensed Sam was about to speak, keeping his voice calm, his tone firm. "I'll be with you the whole time, Sam," he assured his friend. After a moment he urged, "Come on, pick up the pills and get out to the car. Ziggy's got directions to a hospital near here." After spending nearly three hours in a crowded emergency room, Sam's head was pounding again and his nerves were on a razor's edge. He'd had to sit beside Derek the entire time until he was taken in for treatment. At one point Derek sighed. Without asking, he had leaned his head against Sam's shoulder and closed his eyes, his pain evident in the drawn, paleness of his face. It wasn't a threatening gesture, but even so, Sam couldn't relax until he heard a nurse call, "Derek Emerson," and watched Tommie's husband get up. But the tension grabbed him again, when Derek glanced down at him and said, "Come with me?" Sam and Al both blinked twice, surprised by the hint of fear in Derek's voice. And, though he wanted to flee from him, something in the time traveler recognized the thread of fear in the quiet question as one learned early in Derek's life. "Sure." He had even managed a hesitant smile as he stood up, and followed Derek and the nurse. It seemed odd that during the time it took for the doctor to clean and then put the nineteen stitches in Derek's hand that Al had said it would take, that he felt himself relax. Even more startling though, was what happened when the ER doctor had picked up the needle and suture to begin closing the ugly wound. Sam had caught his breath when Derek had turned to him as he stood beside him and hid his face against Sam's shoulder. Even as he felt Derek's good hand fumble for then hold tightly to one of his hands, Sam felt the quiver run through the other man's body. The revelation in that instant ... *he's afraid of needles*... pushed away the anxiety. In that moment as he watched the doctor put in the first stitch, it didn't occur to Sam to feel uncomfortable or odd when he brought his free hand up and smoothed it soothingly over Derek hair. All he focused on at that moment was comforting Tommie's husband, someone who had turned to him for strength. In spite of knowing what Derek was capable of and had done, Sam couldn't have denied the trembling man the comfort of his understanding of his fear, even if it had occurred to him. The drive home was uneventful, due mainly to the fact that the shot Derek had been given for pain had almost put him to sleep. Sam was thankful for the cover of the fading evening light as he practically carried Derek into the house, then got him him upstairs and into bed. Throughout the time in the emergency room and back to the house, Al had stayed within ten feet of Sam the whole time. Now he watched as Sam double- checked Derek to be sure he was sleeping quietly. He waited while Sam got a blanket and pillow and went downstairs to curl up on the couch. What did surprise him, was that Sam, obviously exhausted, didn't stretch out immediately and go to sleep. "I can't," Sam said tiredly. Tucking the blanket over his legs, he glanced up at the Observer. "Remember, the doctor said I couldn't go to sleep until after nine p.m." He looked at the clock sitting on top of the television. "I've got another hour and a half." Al had waited that hour and a half with Sam. They had made small talk, even watching the local news that came on at nine. A couple of times, to save Sam the exertion, he'd popped in to check on Derek. The last time he checked, when he re-centered on Sam, he was relieved to see his friend stretched out on the couch, fast asleep. Al lingered another five minutes. Then, satisfied that Sam was safe, and Derek zonked out due to the pain medicine, he quietly opened the door to the Imaging Chamber and left.