February, 2000 New York City, NY Al had barely given his meeting with Sam a second thought, which may have been telling in and of itself. He did, however, develop another killer headache that kept him in bed for most of the evening. Had he not been asleep for so long, he probably would have noticed Beth's preoccupation after dinner. After bringing Sam briefly by the house. Sam had no money and no home, but there was no way Al was going to have some stranger sleeping in his home. Instead, he'd stopped by the house (leading to brief introductions with Beth) and gotten some cash, then he'd brought Sam to the closest lodging. As of that night, though, he'd officially decided to deal with Sam the following day. Grateful that the medicine Beth had eventually made him take was finally kicking in, he fell into a deep sleep, never even aware of the point when Beth had come to bed. The next thing he was aware of was someone shaking his shoulder. "Al?" Beth whispered. An internal clock informed him it was not morning and he reached behind himself without even opening his eyes, groping in the air until his hand made contact with her arm. "What?" he asked. "Al, I need-" She stopped abruptly and this time he was startled to hear tears in her voice. He opened his eyes and rolled over to see her propped up on one elbow, wiping at her eyes. She wore a sleeveless nightgown and he moved his hand up her bare arm to her shoulder. "Hey, what's wrong?" She shook her head; it looked as if she would burst into sobs at any moment. "I don't know. I had a nightmare and..." "Okay," he whispered soothingly, "come here." He knew what she needed, knew she wouldn't ask for it. He pulled her against him and she put her head on his shoulder and curled up next to him as he ran his fingers through her hair. "What was your dream about?" "I don't remember - it just...it scared me." He frowned. She wasn't usually so bothered by a nightmare that she felt compelled to wake him up. "Is there something on your mind, honey?" She bent her head so she was more in a fetal position against his side. "I think I recognize him." "Sam?" he asked in surprise, that mystery now in the foreground of his attention. "From where?" "I don't remember, but, Al, it's bad." A shiver ran through her body and he held her a little closer. "Bad how?" She just shook her head against him, wiping her face again. Al was alarmed at what could cause this type of reaction in his wife. "He didn't hurt you, did he?" "No." She sounded - thank goodness - genuinely startled at the suggestion. "I'm not saying that he means any harm; I just mean that it's bad that he's here." He sighed. First Sam had spoken in riddles, and now Beth. "I don't understand." "I don't, either. I'm sorry; I just can't figure all this out." "Join the club," he said dryly. "But I wouldn't worry - this guy's probably just some nut-job." "What if he's who he says he is?" Al brushed her cheek with his fingers. "I remember reading about him in Time. He had all these crazy ideas that the rest of the professional world woulda laughed him out of the country about except that his IQ is larger than his weight. I sincerely doubt he's now on the streets of New York City with no money speaking to me." "What did he want with you?" "I got him to admit he knew me, but he refused to say how. Just said he needed someone to help him and I was the only one he knew of to ask. Says he doesn't know anything about the last five years." He paused, wondering yet again if amnesia was a plausible explanation, then dismissed it. For vanishing, for five years, perhaps, but not for knowing him. And, even if Sam hadn't admitted to it, it still would have been obvious that he did. That was the wall Al kept running up against in his logic, the question he most wanted answering. "I guess it's possible - anything's possible. I feel bad for him, though. The kid's obviously got problems of one fashion or another, but... I don't know. Asked if I could find a Tom Beckett that he _thought_ might still be in the Navy. He said they were brothers." He exhaled deeply and kissed the top of her head. "I'm sure I can just find someone to help him and then-" "No, Al." She pulled from his embrace. "You have to help him." He forced back an amazed expression. "But you just said that him being here was bad." "I know what I said." She faced him seriously. "And I still do think...this is going to be hard, but, Al, there's some truth hidden underneath this all and I have to know what it is." There was something deeper beyond her words, but he couldn't figure out what it was. He took in her trepidation and determination and nodded reluctantly. "Okay. I'll put in a few calls tomorrow and see what I can turn up. But I'm not giving him any answers until I get some from him." She nodded and laid back down, seemingly more calm and rational. Even so, something about the way she clung tightly to him spoke volumes. It was not so much that she needed to be reassured because she was upset, but more like she just needed to know that he was still there. "Beth, hon, you sure you don't remember what that dream was about?" Without warning, the tears were back. "Don't make me tell you," she pleaded and he sat up slightly, clicking on the lamp at their bedside, still cradling her against his chest. "Why?" "Bad memories," she answered tightly. He held her far enough away so he could see her eyes. Then he kissed her gently. "You never used to let me get away with not telling you." "Al..." She started to pull back, but he refused to let her go. "If I do, you'll just want to know why I never told you..." He brushed her hair behind her ear and held her face in his hands. "Told me what?" "Al, let go of me." She was speaking between sobs, now. His heart ached for her, but he let her go, wondering how this situation had gotten so out of hand so quickly. "Beth, honey, please..." She shook from the weight on her shoulders. "I thought you were dead, Al." She had to be talking about Vietnam, and he winced inwardly. "You thought I never gave up, but I did. You came home and I was there, but..." He started to speak, but she cut him off. "I'd had this terrible dream and everyone kept telling me that - to give it up and move on. It'd been two years and..." He couldn't fathom why she'd be telling him this unless that's what the dream had been about. "Beth, it was six years - no-one could blame you for faltering, but that's all in the past. You were there and that's all that matters." "You don't understand. I'd met someone and I felt..." She paused to control her voice. "I'd had this dream that I was in ‘Nam with you and they were-" She choked and he picked up a handkerchief from the night-stand and wiped her face gently. "It's okay," he assured her. "Tell me." "They were beating you and I was so scared for you. I started screaming your name and you looked up and saw me and you walked towards me. You tripped and I caught you and you just...died in my arms." She clutched blindly at him. "I gave up that night. Even on this end, there was just so much death and I just couldn't hold on anymore. Oh, Al, I'm so sorry... I didn't tell you when you came home because you were hurting so much and I-" He pulled her back into his arms and held her tenderly, wondering why she felt suddenly compelled to tell him this, why she was dreaming dreams from 30 years ago, and, more importantly, how Sam Beckett fit into all of this. ~~~~~~ Al leaned back in his chair and sighed in frustration. "Patrick, if you have a point, you'd better get to it damn quick." "I'm saying her security clearances didn't check out." Al tossed the file between them. "Oh, let me guess: her brother's friend's girlfriend was in a cult in high school." He rolled his eyes. "I don't have time for this. Fax what you found to Chapelle and let _him_ decided what goes down." Patrick nodded, satisfied, and turned to leave. "Oh, and, Patrick?" Al's assistant stopped and eyed him over his shoulder. "Make sure Jeremy understands that she's staying on my staff, anyhow." Patrick's expression was somehow both haughty and wounded. Al opened up another file as the man left, stared absently at it for several seconds, then picked up the phone and dialed. "Hello?" He smiled to hear Beth's voice. She'd cried for almost a half hour the night before and he'd finally convinced her to call in sick and take it easy. He had to admit to himself that he hadn't taken the time to deal with what she'd told him, just brushed it aside for later, as was his habit. Still, the mention of another man kept coming back into his stream of consciousness, disrupting the flow there and calling up feelings he didn't want to have to deal with. In the clear light of morning, she'd been apologizing all over, saying she didn't know what had come over her. Al knew what had - the dream; if there was anyone who understood the power of images from the past, it was him. The question was, what had brought on the dream? "Hi, baby, how are you feeling?" "Al." He could hear the relief. "You didn't have to call." He shrugged and fingered the edge of a stray post-it. "I know, but I couldn't concentrate. I wanted to call and make sure you were all right." "I'll be fine. Did you talk to Sam, yet?" "No. I told him to come at noon. I did find out that there was a Thomas Beckett in the Navy - he was a SEAL. I don't know if he's still in yet, or where he is now. It could confirm Sam's story, but that kind of information could be found anywhere." "Al, what possible reason could he have for lying like that?" she asked, but he didn't answer. "What are you going to do when he shows up?" she continued nervously. "I don't know. He wants to tell me what's on his mind, I can tell. He keeps dropping little hints that may make sense to him, but don't tell me squat. I just need to find some way to cause him to keep going with that. What I'd _like_ to do is smack him upside the head." He sighed and rubbed his temple. "On top of it all, I'm getting a headache..." "Another one?" she demanded and her tone turned into one that she'd adopt when one of their children was running a fever. "Al, that's the fourth one in as many days. Maybe you should meet me at work and let me run some tests." "No, I'll just pop a couple of pills and I'll be fine. It's probably just the stress getting to me. I swear Jeremy and Patrick take turns throwing temper tantrums every day. I think I need to start bringing a gun to work." "Al..." Someone stepped into the office and he glanced up to see a tall man with a briefcase in one hand, and a beeper in the other. A solemn expression painted his narrow features and he looked down at Al over thick-rimmed glasses. Al raised one eyebrow at the unexpected intrusion. "Beth, I've got to go. I'll call you back after I talk to him, okay?" "Thank you for calling, Al." He smiled faintly. "No problem, sweetheart. See you tonight." "Admiral Calavicci?" the man asked in quiet tones as Al hung up. Al stood up. "Yes?" "My name is Ted DeFrain," he said, shaking Al's hand and then sitting down across from him. "I'm afraid I have some bad news." "What's that?" he asked in dismay. "You're under investigation." Al blinked and opened his mouth, but no sound came out. "I beg your pardon?" he managed finally. "There's money that's disappearing. I've been sent to look into it." He sounded almost regretful at the intrusion. "Oh, you mean the program's under investigation," he clarified. *Not that that's any better...* "No, sir, you are. I have been sent to take your place temporarily while you work with the auditors tracking the finances for the past year." "The past _year_?" With an effort, Al reigned in his anger. He kept an eye on the books, why hadn't he seen any of this? "On whose authority?" "Jeremy Chapelle's." "Chapelle wouldn't do this to me," Al retorted with surprising certainty. "I'm sorry, sir. Feel free to call him this afternoon and confirm it, but it's also under scrutiny that you had been pushing for more money to expand the program." Al slapped his palm against the desk. "To expand the scientific research! What a nozzle - we've known each other for ten years now! Why am I waiting `til this afternoon to call him?" "He has a meeting this morning." "Naturally," Al snapped. "Admiral...I'm sure if you've done nothing wrong, your name will be cleared." Porter spread his hands out in a silent appeal for calm. Although his tone was not condescending, Al took it that way. "It damn well better be."