"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

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

"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

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.


"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-


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

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."