"Pieces" pt. IV May, 2002 Stallion's Gate, NM "Dr. Beckett?" Sam laid down the sheaf of papers he had been fighting his way through and watched them spill across his desk with an odd sense of satisfaction, thoroughly grateful for the interruption. Paperwork was usually something Al handled with well honed skill, but, for once in his life, he had come across something he couldn't handle while pushing on with everyday life. When he wasn't at the hospital, he was asleep. And that wasn't very often. It wasn't for lack of trying, of course. There had been a dozen times at least when Sam had found Al asleep at his desk and had sent him off to bed, only to find him back there and hour later. Two weeks had passed and there was no change in Beth's condition one way or the other, but for each night she lived through, her odds of surviving went up a notch. Even so, she still hadn't regained consciousness and every night she went through pushed her deeper and deeper into the coma she had slipped into. Sam remembered the conversation they had had with Dr. Grahm a couple nights ago about that very problem. It had involved a fair amount of yelling and emotional strain, as he recalled, when the doctor had asked Al when he was going to turn off the machines and let her die in peace. Oh, he didn't say it in so many words, but the thought was there and Sam knew he would never forget the look in Al's eyes at the notion. It was the face of a man realizing the magnitude of what he was being told and denying it in the same instant. Sam honestly believed the possibility hadn't even occurred to him prior to that moment. In a way, he could understand that; he wasn't sure how much better he could have reacted had it been him in that situation. Sam took a moment to erase the memories from his mind, covering his anxiety by stretching cramped muscles. It felt so good that he took the liberty of rubbing the back of his neck before replying to the computer, who added an exasperated sigh for good measure, just to make sure he knew she was still waiting for him to acknowledge her. "Yes, Ziggy?" She was silent for a moment, just to return the favor. "I just thought I should notify you of something." She hummed at him a moment more. "What?" he demanded, faintly exasperated. "There is someone in the Waiting Room," she said sullenly. Sam groaned. "Oh, what, is the janitor kicking up too much dust again?" He was not usually prone to fits of sarcasm, but the last couple of weeks had been hard on them all. "Not unless we're in the habit of hiring leapees," she returned with equal irritation. He stood suddenly and fumbled incoherantly for an instant. Finally, he coughed up a phrase. "In the Waiting Room?" seemed to be the best he could come up with. "Yes, Dr. Beckett. The Wai-ting Ro-om," she clarified in a sultry pout. "Where's Al?" he demanded, numb with regret. If Al had leaped.... "Oh, Admiral Calavicci?" "Ziggy, answer the damn question!" Sam pounded a fist on the desk. "In his office." "You sure?" "Doctor, I don't make mistakes." Sam rolled his eyes. "I don't," she insisted. "Miscalculations, but not mistakes." "What's the difference?" "Semantics." Sam sighed, partly in frusturation, partly in relief. "Well, have him meet me there, now!" Driven by curiosity and a still-remaining sense of dread, he went down two levels and entered the Waiting Room. A young woman, about 24 or 25 sat on the table in the center of the room. She had petite figure with a strong Oriental influence in her features that gave her a delicate appearance. Her deep set dark eyes looked at him, completely startled, and he realized he had never seen her before. At the moment, her eyes said the very same thing about him and she stood quickly, putting the table between them. Sam barely opened his mouth when the door slid open behind him and Verbena entered. He heard the gasp that escaped her. "Melana?" She pushed past him. "Melana? Is that you?" "Wha-what?" She shrank from the psychiatrist's open hand and glanced between them with a trapped look in her deep black eyes. The panic they held reminded him vaguely of Al when he had found him with Beth and he closed his eyes against the memory. The door opened again and this time Al rushed in, rubbing his eyes and breathing hard. "Beeks?" Verbena looked up from the woman to him and shook her head. "It's not her," she said. "Yeah. I can see that." He sighed and passed a hand over his face. "Well, we never expected this one. Tell Ziggy to work the cobwebs outta the Imaging Chamber, willya?" "Al, she's scared. Can you do that? I want to stay with her a few minutes." "Al, what-" Sam began, but Al cut him off with a wave of his hand. "Let me make sure she's okay, first, alright Sam? Then I promise...I'll explain everything." "Since when was there another leaper, Al?" He looked back angrily. "Sam, _later_!" He left as quickly as he had come and Sam felt the tension in the room relax a little. He spoke without turning to face Verbena. "What's going on here?" "I think I had better let Al tell you that himself." "He's closing me off, Verbena," Sam said quietly. "He's not letting me help, he's not letting me be there.... He's just shutting me out from everything." He turned slowly, suddenly recalling the other person in the room. Verbena was sitting on the table next to the frightened woman, holding onto her as she fought to deny what her eyes were telling her. Feeling suddenly conspicuous and intrusive, Sam clamped his mouth shut and stepped back, swallowing the apology that lingered in his throat. He might as well have been the person on the table for the lost feeling that swelled up inside of him. He stood, transfixed, as Verbena comforted and quieted the visitor, at the same time gently drawing information from her without her entirely realizing it was being done. Dr. Beeks navigated her way around the holes with practiced ease and for the first time Sam understood what was being done on this end every time he had leaped. It made him somehow uneasy. The minutes ticked by and finally the psychiatrist glanced up at the ceiling, despite the fact that it made no difference where she looked, as if to assure herself that Ziggy had been paying attention. "Okay, Amy, I need to go talk to someone else for a minute. Are you going to be alright?" Amy nodded slowly. "Yes ma'am." "Good. Why don't you get some rest?" They waited until she laid down and then Verbena gestured to Sam and he followed her out, feeling humbled by the experience. "Sam...come up to the Control Room with me." Sam sighed, but fell into step beside her. "Verbena, I just feel awful. I don't know what to do." She remained silent and Sam immediately recognized a well-known, age old psychiatric ploy. He walked into it anyway. "I feel so helpless. Donna and I have been snapping at each other all week, and... I just can't help him, I can't do anything!" "And how do you think Al feels?" That startled Sam and he stopped to face her. "What do you mean?" She smiled gently at him. "Sam, for five years you were put into situations where you could help others. They would not always be quick to accept your assistance, but you could always _do_ something. Did it ever occur to you that Al feels the same way you do? Helpless? He can't do anything - he can just wait. But he's always been better at that than you," she added thoughtfully. "He's had more practice at it." Sam stood silently, her words running through his mind. He called up the flawless image of the look in Al's eyes as he sat beside her bed so many times, his lips moving in formless patterns as if he was unconsciously reciting some senseless mantra. In his mind, he saw the worry plainly set in his features, but no trace of impatience or frusturation. "I don't know," he said finally. "Sam." Her voice called him back to the present and he re-focused on her face. "Trust me, Sam. Five years waiting for you and endless years of it before that....not only is he good at it, but it'll never show." Sam admitted to himself that her words were probably true. "Come on." She tugged at his arm and they resumed their walk. "He knows you're trying, though," she reminded him. "Yeah." They got in the elevator and Sam waited for the doors to close before speaking again. "So what's the deal with this other leaper? Melanie?" "Melana," she corrected automatically. "Right. Her. And why did nobody tell me about her?!" Verbena laid a hand on his arm. "I told you, Al will explain all that. You're just going to have to cut him some slack, okay? He was relatively close to her, too." Verbena smiled fondly and a mist came over her eyes as she immersed herself in her own memories. "Her parents were from China and were pretty deep-rooted in tradition, but she's 100% American, much to their frustration," she said with a small laugh. "Brilliant woman. You should see her and Sammy Jo go at it. Anyway, her parents died when she was 16 - car wreck. She didn't come onto the project until after you had leaped. Not very long after, in fact, but I knew her from before. In fact, I all but brought her on and Al, well, he kind of adopted her and, in a sense, she adopted him. Actually, I'm kind of surprised he never mentioned her to you before." Sam made a face. "Well, not that I remember," he said dryly. "Well, I guess the retrieval program will end up with another test subject." "Looks that way. Did you figure out where and when she was?" "Somewhere in Connecticut, 1979." The elevator door opened and they exited without continuting the conversation. Gooshie was back up there, but Tina was absent. Sam couldn't remember if this was the week she had her seminar in Omaha or if it was the following week. Verbena leaned on a console. "Did we find her?" "Affirmative, Dr. Beeks," Ziggy answered. "And she appears to be in good health." Sam sighed and sat down in a nearby chair, waiting for the explanation he so dearly wanted.