"Hidden Agenda" Part XI November, 2000 Hardesty, OK Al was frantically sifting through drawers when Bernadette came in. "Admiral, David's-" "I know. Call the police." Tabitha shrieked and Al gave up his search, running for the bedroom and stopping only to snatch the first thing that caught his eye. It took three tries to kick the door in, and, when he did, he saw David holding onto Tabitha's arm and Celia tugging on his. "David, she's your _daughter_ - how can you hurt your own child?" she sobbed. There was blood on the side of her face, staining her collar, but she didn't appear to notice. "Stop, please don't! Please! I'll do anything!" Al's entrance startled all three of them and Celia hit David - not a slap across the face, but she actually _hit_ him. Al could've cheered. Tabitha jerked free at David's amazement and clung to her mother's arm. David grabbed Celia from the other side, twisting her arm behind her back and reaching for his daughter. Al held out a hand to Tabitha. "Come here, honey - come on. It'll be okay, just come here." Celia gasped in pain and Tabitha started crying harder. "Go, Tabby - go to him! Now!" her voice was sharp and commanding and Tabitha ran for Al's hand and he pulled her behind him, pushing her out the door and waiting until he saw Bernadette take her hand before turning back to David. "Are you going to kill her, you bastard?" Al demanded, fury making his adrenaline flow hard. "Then what? Kill me because I'm a witness?" "Al, just take her and go," Celia pleaded. "He won't kill me - he just wants things back to the way they were." "Do you?" Al countered and it was hard to say which one of them he was asking. He stared at David. "Do you remember a woman named Gina Prather? Do you remember what happened to her because of you?" "I killed her," David said coldly, without remorse. "She was in my office building and she was always coming onto me because I had money. She was asking for it, so I killed her." "No, you didn't." Al's voice trembled with anger. "You beat and murdered Sam Beckett!" Celia stared, amazed and horrified. "And you're going to pay for what hasn't happened yet!" Al stepped forward and swung the object in his hand - the cold, metal poker he'd grabbed from Bernadette's fireplace as he passed by it. It connected hard with David's side and Celia fell to the floor as he released her automatically. Al didn't give him the chance to get up, but hit him again and again. If David had said Gina had died, then they hadn't been able to change it, and who knew if he'd get there in time? Sam Beckett, the most loyal, selfless man Al had ever known, had died alone five years in the past. Al's mind painted the picture for him from what he'd been told: he'd been in pain and he'd been scared and the only time he spoke was to ask for his friend, but Al never came and he died alone and forgotten. And then David set fire to the body, dousing it with gasoline and burning it until there was nothing left worth holding onto. If history repeated itself, Sam would be gone. In a fit of poetic justice, Al kept hitting him, relentlessly, blinded by a focused fury, until he felt Celia's hands on his. "Al, stop!" He tried to push past her for an instant until reason won out and he let the weapon fall on the carpet and noted that David was unconscious, blood on his face and his shirt. Al was breathing hard and she moved her hands to his arm, locking gazes with him. There were tears on his face. He looked at her, not really seeing her. "Not Sam..." he whispered and his fear tore into her and she finally understood what lengths Al would have gone to for him. She embraced him tightly, trying to offer some of the comfort he'd given her, but knowing she couldn't. In the distance, they could hear sirens and she pulled back. "Go - before there are questions for you. Go stop him from killing your friend." ~~~~~~ April, 1995 Hancock, MD "Sam?" Verbena flinched as the Door closed behind her, leaving her inside the past. She stood still, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. "Sam, are you okay?" Ziggy's readings indicated that Sam's respiration was uneven and his blood pressure was down from a few hours ago. She wondered how much blood he'd lost: Ziggy was able to diagnose the general problems but, without light, she couldn't see how bad it really was. Sam might have been able to tell her, but she wasn't sure how objective or aware he really was. "Sam?" His voice came suddenly in the blackness, to her immediate right. "Where are you?" She waved the bright lights of the handlink, hoping he could see it. She suddenly realized why it was so dark: it was night in Sam's time, whereas it was only 1 PM in hers. "Right here, Sam. I'm sorry to wake you up but-" "I wasn't asleep," he informed her quietly. "I can't sleep." "You need to. You need to conserve your strength, do you understand?" He didn't reply. "How are you doing?" "Have you guys figured this out, yet?" he asked hoarsely. She cringed. "Not yet, but we should soon. Just sit tight - Al will be here in three or four hours. Have pity on us, Sam - he'll have our heads if you're not doing better by the time he gets back." Sam didn't respond to her attempt at humor. "What's he gonna be able to do?" he pressed quietly. "He'll think of something," she reassured him, not mentioning that the whole project - including Al - was wondering the same thing. He needed some positive thinking - all this time in the dark, hurting too bad to sleep, it couldn't have fostered positive thoughts. "He always does, Sam, you know that." "What am I gonna need to do?" She hesitated, then thought that focusing on the problem might not only prove productive, but it could take his mind off his injuries. "We need to get you out of here. Gina's body was found badly burned, but they don't think that was the cause of death. They think the body was burned afterwards, which means he has to come back. Plus you're still in Maryland and the body was found in Virginia in a little over a day and a half. But we don't know when exactly he's going to be coming. So we've got to get you out of here, but the problem is there's nowhere to go: the closest town is three miles away and, though people come into this area, it's going to have to be dumb luck that they stumble across you." "What is this place?" "It reminds me of one of those tornado shelters, or maybe it was a basement or a wine cellar, or just a hideaway, I don't know. But it's clearly been long abandoned. The only way out is through a door up the flight of stairs - most of this construction is underground. There's a small shack outside nearby, but it's deserted, too. We're stuck, Sam." She'd hoped Sam would latch onto the problem, maybe even think up a solution, but she was disappointed at the reply. "Where's Al?" he asked softly, his words barely audible. She sighed. "We've covered this, Sam - he's coming. I promise, okay?" she pressed, turning each statement into a question to gain a response. "Okay." "Good. Get some sleep," she instructed patiently. "I know it hurts, but staying awake and worrying won't help and it'll wear you out. Nobody's given up on you yet, Sam, understand?" He exhaled heavily in the darkness. "Okay." ~~~~~~ November, 2000 Fountain Inn, OK Al paced, waiting for the boarding to begin. He was worried about Sam - he had a bad feeling about his friend. He'd heard enough about David Gray to last him a lifetime and, when Verbena had told him that was the name of Sam's captor, he knew it was going to be bad. The question was: was he going to be going back to PQL to see his friend die, or to find a way to help him live? Knowing what he knew of the situation, he was beginning to doubt he could manage the latter, not if Ziggy had begun being helpful again and they still hadn't found a solution. He swallowed, feeling a pain in his jaw from having clenched his teeth. He forced himself to relax, then did the same thing moments later as his mind wandered and his focus wavered. Why did Sam Beckett have to suffer in Gina's place? It wasn't fair, dammit, it wasn't! Who invented the rule that said that was how good deeds were to be rewarded? And, yet, there he would be the next leap, putting his life on the line for someone he didn't know. That was what made him Sam. Although sometimes he hated it, Al had to admit that it was what had saved his life when he was hurting. Al tried to think of Sam's last leap, of Tabitha and how he'd been able to spend more time with her then than when he'd finally been able to touch her and hug her, but he couldn't keep his attention on that. He was too distraught to think of anything or anyone else - not David or Tabitha or- "Al?" He turned to see Celia standing behind him, hugging herself tightly. The unexplained flood of relief that coursed through him surprised him and he wasn't sure if it was because he'd been anxious about leaving David with them for a moment or because he'd needed her there to talk to him and keep his mind off Sam. He reached automatically for her, holding her gently, taking comfort when she returned the gesture. "How did you come here? I thought the police..." "David's at the hospital," she said, not directly answering his question. "When he gets well enough, he's going to jail. He attacked us here - he hasn't spent years buying off the people of Hardesty. He was popular in New Freedom." He found the choice of names ironic, if nothing else. "We'll stand a chance here," she continued, laying her head on his shoulder and stroking his hair. She seemed to know he needed comfort. "I couldn't let you leave without saying good-bye, though, not if I could help it. And I don't really...understand why you did what you did for me." Al smiled dimly and held her at arm's length. He could faintly recall asking the same question of Sam Beckett while in a drunken haze several months into their relationship. He could also remember Sam's answer, offered with feeling and maybe even a little anger at the rest of the world. "Because there are people in this world who give a damn and it's high time someone did for you." She took his hand. "I'm so sorry I can't bring him home for you, Al," she said in hushed tones, as if she'd known his mind was still occupied with worry for Sam. "If I asked you to try, would you?" he offered sincerely. "What?" she said, clearly confused. "I'm serious. I don't want to pass up any opportunity, no matter how fleeting. Just come, look over Sammy Jo's and Sam's notes, and toss out ideas for a couple of days." She hesitated. "Please?" Instead of answering, she countered with a question of her own. "You would have killed him, wouldn't you?" Al's expression hardened. "He hurt you, he tried to kill Tabitha, and the jury is still out on Sam. Then there was Leslie, too. Who knows how many others? Who knows why?" "How long has Sam been leaping?" He swallowed and turned away, breaking all physical contact with her. "Five years." She rested a hand on his back, as if trying to feel what he felt. "Now I see why you came all this way in the hopes that I could do something. They've been long years and you're wearing down, aren't you?" He was silent. "You didn't let him down, Al. I don't know if I can help, but I'll try. I owe you that much, at least." He looked back at her, then kissed her tenderly and the moment when his true emotions were shining through passed and he was calm and balanced again. "You don't owe me anything."