"Pieces" pt. XV April, 2002 Santa Fe, NM Melana was struck with a sudden feeling of deja vu as she stepped out into the almost empty street across from the cafe. The main road within shouting distance, the foreboding alley, all of it was just as it had been the last time she was here. Instincitvely, she looked towards the restaruant just in time to see her walk out. This time she was ready. She'd read the reports on what happened, had called up a picture of Beth on Al's terminal, all of it. She knew what she was there to do, and she knew she wasn't doing anything wrong. After all, what else could she originally have been there for? She hurried across the road, the sounds of her shoes hitting the pavement echoing in her ears. She had this all worked out. She would go get Al and Sam and let them handle all the dirty work. Then, she could vanish before either of them had the chance to question her about what happened. At least, that was the plan. It was when the man emerged from the shadows, a painful testimony to that thing known as destiny, that she realized she hadn't left herself enough time to stop what had already started. But if there was one thing leaping had taught her, it was that destiny didn't exist. Either that, or leaping itself was it's fufillment. By the time she reached Beth, he was pulling on her arm, trying to get her to go with him. Beth glanced up and saw Melana darting towards her and said something she couldn't understand. "What?" Melana asked, coming up on them quickly. Once she had stopped, Beth laid a hand on her arm. "I said, can you help us? This man says someone's hurt. I'm a doctor, but I may need some help. Can you go call an ambulance and then come help?" "No," Melana stammered, winning an astonished look from Beth. The man just stared steadily at her. "Nobody's hurt." "Look, lady, I'm telling you..." he warned, sounding gruff and angry. At least, he did to Melana. To Beth, she supposed, he probably just sounded anxious and worried. "No! Leave us alone," she insisted, reaching forward to push him away. "Hey, take it easy," Beth interjected, putting a restraining hand on her arm. "Look, I'm going to go help, but I need to hurry and there's no time for this. Please, just go call for some help." "No!" she repeated, grabbing for him. The instant she made contact with him, his form mutated and coalesced into something far more menacing than a dangerous man with a knife. A tall black man stood in front of her and she felt her breath come fast and furious. She didn't know his name, but she knew his face. It was one she would never forget because he had made certain of that. He'd wanted her to carry it with her to her grave, and now she was condemned to do so, but she never expected to see it again. He sneered at her. "And who are you?" he asked, his voice dripping with malice. "I don't believe we've been formally introduced. You wouldn't happen to be a friend of the good doctor, would you?" Beth watched the interchange with confusion and a growing anxiousness. "Look, your friend..." she protested, but she seemed less certain of herself. Melana stood, transfixed and unable to even scream. "Right," he said evenly, suddenly gaining control of his delight at uncovering another leaper. "Zoe will be delighted at this one." Then he turned back to Beth. "Let's go." For the first time she hesitated, glancing again at Melana. "What's going on?" she demanded in what she hoped was a firm tone. Then she looked at Thames. "Do I know you?" she asked suddenly, not even sure where the question had come from. "Oh, yes," he drawled, the sharp click of a switchblade echoing his tone. "Please," he gestured towards the alley, "after you." He left Melana frozen to the spot and pushed Beth around the corner. Melana's breathing was coming faster now and pieces were falling into place at an alarming rate. "You son-of-a..." she whispered and then, a cry torn from her throat, she broke herself loose and ran after. All rational thought fled and she knew she couldn't let him do to Beth what he had done to her. She came around the corner at an alarming speed and, heedless of personal danger, crashed straight into him. She barely heard Beth cry out. She didn't notice the blade clattering against the ground and skidding across the rough pavement. All she was aware of was the sound of his body hitting the road and her own pain. He reached for her hands, trying to restrain her, but she was in a rage and, small as she was, she wasn't pinned down this time. "Stop!" Beth cried from behind her, and she felt hands pulling her up and off of him. Only after Beth yanked her away did she see the blood on his face and notice that at some point, the repeated blows had sent him into unconsciousness. "Please," the woman breathed, "stop. I'm not sure what just happened here, but..." She trailed off and staggered against a wall. It was only then that Melana saw the blood covering her arm and the violent shaking. Her entire left side was red too, but she couldn't tell if it was from another wound, or just the arm. Melana was next to her in two paces and she grabbed her good arm to support her. "Where are you hurt?" "Please," she gasped out between blows of agony. "Please, go into the cafe and call an ambulance. And I need you to get a Dr. Beckett and..." She trailed off again as she fought to hold onto consciousness. "Al..." she whispered and her head lolled to the side. "Wait here. Please, hold on," Melana urged, wishing she had more knowledge of medicine than she did. "I'll be right back. Hold on." Without waiting for a reply, she ran from the alley just before Beth slid down the wall to the ground. The cafe was air conditioned and much more refreshing, but it was the last thing on her mind. She spied Sam, Al, and Donna at the far table in the corner of the room and fought her way through the crowd to reach them. "I'm telling you, Sam, she's gone," Al was saying when she got within earshot. "I looked everywhere." "Maybe she came back and she's just in the bathroom. Let's not get carried away, Al." Donna's eyes flicked back and forth between the two men, but she remained silent. "Dr. Beckett!" Melana shouted and the table fell silent. Sam paused and then hiked up his eyebrows. "Yes?" he asked tentatively. "It's Beth," she said. It was all that was necessary. "Beth?" Al asked suddenly, swinging around to face her. "How do you know her? Where is she?" "She's hurt." Sam partially rose to his feet, working his way out of the booth. "Hurt?" Al spoke over him. "Where is she?!" he repeated, urgency giving his tone a hard edge. "She's in the alley to the left of the cafe. There was a man with a knife...oh, Al..." she groaned, forgetting herself for a minute and clutching desperately at his arm. He nailed her with a shocked expression, but didn't pause to ask how she knew his name. "Show me." She led them willingly to the side street, watching in a dazed state as Al and Sam pushed past her to check on Beth. All she saw was the man lying in the middle of the road. Beth was leaning against the wall on the ground, pain tensing all the muscles in her body. She was aware of company only an instant before Al dropped to the road beside her. She looked faintly at him and then turned to Sam. "He caught me in the side and the arm," she whispered, her voice hoarse. Sam nodded and started tearing the cloth from her arm so he could get a better look. "It wasn't a big knife, so it can't have gone that far in my side, but it burns like anything." Although she spoke to Sam, her gaze was focused on some undefined point in the distance, and her face displayed a steady attempt to package the pain and panic and fear and place them to the side until she had the time to deal with them. Al cupped her chin in his hand. He smiled encouragingly when she met his eyes. "What kept you?" she asked tightly, grunting as Sam jostled her. He shifted beside her. "I was having difficulties with the shining armor," he quipped, the smile losing some of its energy when she fell short of returning it. She pressed the back of her head against the wall behind them. "At least you left the - horse behind this time." Absently, and without looking at her, Sam put his hand on her shoulder. "Okay, just sit still for a moment." She screamed slightly, losing some of her control as he wiped away the blood so he could get a better look at the damage and Al reached out for her, kneeling on her right. "Here, hold my hand," he instructed, grasping her fingers in his own. She clenched him with tight fingers as involuntary tears of pain rose in her eyes. "That's it," he said evenly, moving so she could lean against him. "I know it hurts." "Okay, it's not too bad, here," Sam said, looking at her side. "It'll need a number of stitches, but she should be fine eventually." "What about - the arm?" she asked between heavy breaths. "Haven't gotten that far yet." He grabbed Al's free hand. "Hold this here. I don't want her to lose too much blood." Al reached around behind her and held the handkerchief to her side, noting her gasp of pain with keen awareness. By this point the ambulance Donna had called was announcing its arrival with loud sirens and Sam was finishing tying off a piece of his sleeve around her arm. "What about him?" Al asked, nodding to the man lying in the street. At the mention of her attacker, Beth's hand tightened on his and he pulled her head against him protectively. Sam slid over to Thames and put his fingers under his chin. "He's dead." "What did I do?" Melana's quiet voice broke through the stillness and Sam looked up at her, suddenly recalling her presence. He got up and walked up to her, placing his hands gently on her shoulders. "You did what you had to. Are you okay?" Her cheek twitched and she shook her head slightly. "I don't know..." "Listen to me," Sam said quietly. Behind him, the shakes had started to set in and Al was far to busy looking after that to offer his support, or even his thanks. "I know what it's like. I know what it feels like to kill someone else for the first time. But you didn't have any choice, do you understand me?" "I guess." She looked at the couple huddled next to each other on the hard pavement. "I guess in the end, it was worth it." She barely saw Sam's sympathetic smile or the ambulance rolling up to the intersection before she leaped. ^----^----^----^----^ May, 2002 Stallion's Gate, NM Al sat up. Confused, he put his hand to his head and looked around the room. Just a second ago, he had been in the infirmary with Sam and now suddenly he was lounged out on the couch on his quarters. He squinted at the room. There was something he should be remembering, he was certain. *Beth!* He stood up abruptly. "Beth," he murmured aloud, the sound of his voice all but making his hopes a reality. A quick survey of the room revealed it to be completely empty and he glanced into the kitchette. "Beth?" A sudden panic that he was wrong flooded his mind and he turned. "Beth?!" he called. "What's wrong, Al?" She stood like a pale shadow in the doorway to the bedroom, one hand pressed to her forehead, the other clenching the doorjam as if she didn't have the energy to stand without it's assistance. "She did it," he whispered. Then, louder, "she did it!" "Did what?" She sounded tired. "Did I wake you?" He asked abruptly. "Well...yes." She blinked and looked at him more closely. "What's wrong?" she asked again, suddenly completely awake. Al felt he couldn't stay still a minute longer even if he was nailed to the floor. He ran the distance from the kitchen to the doorway and enveloped her in an embrace, careful not to jostle her arm. She resisted the action at first until she realized he was not offering comfort, but seeking it himself. The memories were coming back now. "Nothing," he said gently into her hair. "Nothing."