"Hidden Agenda" Epilogue November, 2000 Stallions Gate, NM Al Calavicci was beyond exhausted - mentally, physically, and emotionally. Some leaps were just like this (the mental institution came to mind, but at least he hadn't lost who Sam _was_, this time), and he had no options but to deal with it. He emerged from the Imaging Chamber and walked directly past everyone there, not even noting Celia's presence as a witness to all that had just occurred. "Al?" Verbena asked quietly, "is he okay?" Al waved a hand in the air. "Sure, he's leaped out and when he leaps back in, he'll be fine. May not even remember all this," he added, and it was plain to everyone in the room that this was the hardest for him. He was too tired to hide his feelings well. He fought for a smile and lost. "I'm goin' to bed." "You were the only one who coulda coaxed him out of there, you know?" "I don't know if `coax' is an accurate description," he said wearily, "but it got the job done." "He listens to you like he doesn't to anyone else," she pressed, trying to get some point across, but she was being too subtle: it was lost on him. He didn't know why she felt the need to continue; he didn't want to be reassured and he didn't need to be reassured. What he needed was ten solid hours to himself. "That's `cause I'm the only one who uses the right name," he pointed out, casting Donna a glance of comfort. Geez, the whole gang had gathered in the Control Room for this one... Before Verbena could slide the couch out into the room for him, before the words `trust' and `need' could enter the conversation - like he needed that extra pressure, like he didn't know it already, God help him - he tossed the handlink on the counter and left, heading straight for his quarters. He was still angry, he realized, and why shouldn't he be?! Sure, Sam was still alive, but look what he'd had to go through to achieve that! And for what? So tomorrow, or the day after that, he could leap into another life and start it all over again? Sam had to be some kind of saint because Al was sure that, for himself, he would have said `to hell with it' somewhere around leap 20. He pulled off his jacket, tossing it on the chair, and sat heavily on the couch. He toyed briefly with the thought of having a drink, then dismissed it as unwise when his defenses were this far down. Sam had a way of doing that to him. His door chime sounded and he rubbed his face, wearily. "Take a hike, `Bena!" he called. Why did that woman have to be so persistent when it came to him? She complained he didn't sleep enough, and then came hunting him down when he went to bed. It was enough to make him crazy, and he'd always thought psychiatrists were supposed to do the opposite. "Al?" His eyes widened. "Celia!" He moved quickly to the door, opening it and ushering her inside. "Oh, honey, I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to just leave you there with all those people you don't even know..." He shook his head, shutting the door behind them. "It's okay. Sammy Jo brought me down here." He nodded distractedly. "Al?" "Yeah?" "What do you owe him?" He looked up in surprise. "What do you mean?" "Sam... I was listening to you talking to him in the...Imaging Room?" He shrugged - close enough. "And you were just so determined, and I was remembering...what you said to David and..." He studied her face. Part of Celia still didn't get it, which he understood - more and more, he could see the similarities between them. "In a way, I feel like I do owe him. He saved my life." "Your life or your soul?" she asked knowingly. He chuckled dryly. "A little of both. But that's not why I hang around, why I fight so hard for him." She sat on the couch and he moved to sit beside her. "Why?" "He's my partner." She waited. "And my friend. This project was our dream - we built it together, side by side. We've been through a lot and I can't turn my back on him now that he needs me." She smiled at him. "I've never met anyone like you before." He brushed her cheek with his fingers. "I'm not surprised," he murmured with a small smile, and kissed her. The moment was sweet, but Al didn't push any further. Celia was still hurting, still healing, and she wasn't ready for more; they both knew that. "Celia, will you stay and be part of the welcome home party? It'll be a hell of a bash..." She rested her hand against the nape of his neck. "Oh, Al...this would be a wonderful place to work and to live, but I can't raise a 6 year old girl here... I'm sorry. But I'd love to help out with the retrieval program from afar, if I could." He brushed her hair back, noting she no longer wore the heavy makeup that obscured her slowly healing wounds. "I'll get you the clearance." She nestled against him for a few moments. "Thank you, Al." He sighed deeply and held her gently, knowing somewhere inside that it would be the last time he ever would. [*whew* That's a lot in one blow.
Hope you enjoyed it - all questions/comments should be directed to . I'll have access to that for another week and a half. After that, I'll see you guys in (hopefully) 3 months.... -amkt]