"The Day After That" pt. III August, 1980 Seattle, WA It was hard to see at first. The light under the bathroom door revealed that he was nearby, but it still took Al a moment to find her. She didn't have any lights on in the bedroom. Beth sat on the edge of the bed facing away from him towards the window. Typical Seattle weather, the clouds obscured most of the stars and almost no light shone on her face. Still, she stared at the sky intently, as if it held all the secrets of the world. Her arms were curled around her legs, her chin resting on her knees. She'd since pulled her hair back into a loose bun that was already starting to work its way free. Al moved to the other side of the bed, closed his eyes as if to rally his strength, and knelt down in front of her. He wasn't entirely certain what good he could hope to do here or why he'd come. He told himself it was to gather information, to help Sam help her, but a deeper part of him knew it was more than that. Whatever his secrets were, he was keeping them even from himself. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes. She continued to look past him, but he was more interested in what he could read in those eyes than what she was looking at. There were no tears, no sorrow, not even the fear he'd seen there earlier that evening. Instead, there was...nothing. She'd learned to shut herself off from the world, he realized. It was something he'd learned long ago out of necessity and, it seemed, so had she. He ran a shaky hand through his hair, breathing in the cigar smoke as if it was oxygen. Then he noticed a bruise on her right cheek he was sure hadn't been there before as well as a mark on her bottom lip where blood had finally clotted. He blinked back tears and hatred and his hand crushed the cigar in his palm. "Beth, honey, I'm sorry. I should have checked this when Sam leaped into San Diego in 1969, but I..." He hesitated. She was motionless. "I was afraid," he finished, ashamed at his own words. But they had to be spoken. He had to be honest with her, even if she couldn't hear him, and he had to be honest with himself. "I was selfish. I didn't want to know if you'd been happy with him, so I just didn't check. And I should have. Maybe I could've convinced Sam that-" "How are you doing, Beth?" Dirk asked suddenly from behind her. It was the first time Al had seen the man and the sudden rage that filled his vision surprised even himself. He rose automatically and stood in front of her as if to protect her. "Don't touch her!" he cried, more a plea than a demand. Dirk passed through him and knelt down exactly where he had been. He touched her lower lip gently and smiled at her. "You'll be fine," he informed her in tones intended to soothe a distraught woman. She didn't appear distraught, but either way she didn't react. "No thanks to you!" All he had were words, even if they couldn't be heard, and, if there was one thing Al had, it was an extensive vocabulary. He intended to use it. "You should be more careful," Dirk continued, removing his hand. Al was speechless. "_She_ should be more... _You_ should be careful, you nozzle!" Al extended a few choice phrases, almost missing Beth's whispered comment. "I know." "Oh, no, honey..." Dirk stroked her cheek. "Oh well, at the very worst I just won't be able to kiss you for a few days, huh?" He kept massaging the bruise until she looked up and smiled weakly. He rose and kissed her on top of her head. Al stiffened. "We should get some sleep." "I'm not really tired. I thought I'd read a while in the den until-" "Beth!" The word came out sharply and she flinched. "I said we'd better get some sleep. Do you think I'm wrong?" "Oh, I know bait when I hear it," Al fretted, gazing at her. "No." It sounded almost like a confession. "Besides, we have that trip in a week. Haven't had a vacation in a while. We'll both enjoy ourselves then, right?" "About that...I was thinking that..." "You were thinking what?" he asked. He was deceptively calm. "Careful, Beth," Al warned, tensing, but she'd already seen through his false interest. She stared into Dirk's eyes a moment. "Nothing. Good night." He held her gaze an instant longer, then grabbed her wrist so abruptly that Al jumped. It was the same wrist, he noted, that had been bothering her earlier, but she didn't react as if in pain. Her small sound of protest was muffled as he kissed her. Then he let her go. Relief shone in her eyes as he slid under the covers. She did likewise, facing away from him, all unknowingly, towards Al. Dirk rested a hand on her hip and a flash of pain reflected briefly on her face as she stared out the window. Al bent down again. "I know you're scared, Beth. I am, too. But, Sam, he'll get you out of this. He's the best and he'll take care of you." He smiled as she closed her eyes. "I promise," he murmured. "Sam! Sam, get up!" Sam tried to ignore the urgent call, tried to go back to sleep, but the voice got louder. And more desperate. "_Sam_! Come on, pal, wake up!" "Al?" Sam rolled over and eyed the digital clock. "It's only 6:00," he groaned. "I know, but he's at it already. Come on, you gotta do something!" That information spurred him into action and he forced himself to sit up. "What do you mean?" "Dress while you talk," Al ordered him angrily. "I went to see Beth last night." "You - you what?" Sam paused in his actions to stare unbelievingly at his partner. It explained why he looked like death warmed over, though. "You stayed with her all night, didn't you?" Al broke the connection by turning away. It was all the answer Sam needed. "The shyster mentioned a trip they were taking in a week," he said, ignoring Sam's inquiry, "and I could tell she didn't want to go. But when he reacted negatively to her wanting to talk about it, she dropped the subject. Will you move?! He brought it up again this morning and they got into an argument. He wanted to go; she didn't. At first it was just yelling, but then he hit her. Sam, you gotta _do_ something!" "A week?" Sam asked as he tied his shoes. "What?" Al asked absently, already working the `link. "Al, when I leaped in, she mentioned over the phone that she was reluctant to go...somewhere, but she would anyway so things wouldn't get worse for her. Now you tell me this trip is in a week? And she dies in a week?" Al swallowed, his finger poised over the handlink. "Isn't that a bit too much coincidence?" "Yes." He frowned, tapping the handlink with a finger. "And Ziggy thinks so, too." Sam bolted for the door. Three minutes later, he pulled up to the large, two story house. She was close to Linny's home, but in a much more upscale neighborhood. Al waited by the front door. "You're too late," he said as Sam bounded up the front stairs. Sam stopped dead, shocked. She wasn't supposed to die for another week! "He's gone," Al clarified. Sam started breathing again. "At least he's away from her - for now." He rang the doorbell and banged on the door. "Beth?!" Al popped out beside him. "Beth?!" he called, ringing the doorbell again. Al reappeared and pointed to the window to the far right on the upper level of the house. "She's upstairs. Sam, she looks like she's gonna be sick. I don't think she's gonna come down and let you in," he added as an afterthought. Sam jiggled the doorknob, surprised when it turned at his prodding and the door swung open. "Is she okay?" "I guess so." Al didn't sound convinced. "Sam, forget the legal tape, forget everything - just take the jerk out yourself." Sam paused at the base of the stairs. "I can't do that, Al." "_Why_?" "If she doesn't change her stance on this, Linny could pay the price for what I do. If it was just me, Al...I would do it." He pursed his lips. "And I know you would, too." "Linny?" Beth called from upstairs. Sam grabbed the rail and took the steps two at a time. "Is he gone?" Al was right - she did look nauseous. "I don't know what you're getting out of staying here," Sam told her as he took her arm to steady her, "but I wish you'd weigh the odds and reconsider." Beth shook her head and wavered slightly. Sam sighed. "Are you okay?" "I'm just a little dizzy." "He hit you pretty hard, huh." It wasn't a question. "I'll make you a deal," she said as she sat down on her bed, "you don't insult my intelligence by asking and I won't insult yours by lying." Sam glanced around and noticed Al was gone. *It can't be easy for him - I'm surprised he was able to be around her at all.* "What did you tell him about going away?" Beth let out a heavy breath and Sam saw her stiffen slightly. "I told him I didn't want to go and he said I would. End of discussion." The fear was back in her eyes and Sam realized something: it wasn't Dirk she was afraid of - it was going away with him that led to panic. Unfortunately, the revelation gave him no more insight into what was going on than he'd had before. "Why are you scared to go?" The direct approach could work. She leveled a steady gaze at him. "You know why." Or not. "Linny, I don't know what to do." "Leave here," Sam urged her. "I'll come with you if you can't do it alone, but we'll just go." "Where? I don't have anyplace to go." Sam felt a glimmer of hope at the comment. The words were designed to discourage, but the fact that she rejected his idea for the reason she had instead of denying any desire to leave showed promise. And progress. "You can come live with me for-" "Linny!" Beth sighed. "We wouldn't last a week. That's the first place he'd look." "The police-" She cut him off again, angry this time. "I told you, I don't want to do that." Sam shook his head and put a hand on her arm. Once, he was sure, she'd been a happy person. Maybe when she was a girl, or when she got into nursing. Or when she'd fallen in love with and married Al. Even in the midst of all that despair he'd seen when he leaped into Jake Rawlins, even through all those tears, he'd still seen her smile. She had a beautiful smile - one that made her look innocent and radiant and youthful all at once. It was probably what made Al fall in love with her. Sam knew that was the difference between then and now: then, in spite of all her pain, she was still living. Now, she was merely surviving. "So what are you going to do, Beth? Stay here for the rest of your life?" "I take each day at a time." She sighed, the anger beginning to diminish. "I take each hour at a time." "Oh, yeah? Well what about the future? What about today or tomorrow or the day after that when he goes too far and kills you? What about then?" "Then I won't have to worry about it anymore, will I?" "Maybe you've told me this before, but humor me, Beth. Explain why you won't let the police help you." She pulled away from his touch, troubled by the contact. Sam swallowed his rage towards Dirk at the action. "This is something that...I got myself into. I can't rely on anyone else to pull me out." Sam jumped at the opening. "Okay, fine! So pull yourself out! Fight for yourself!" She laughed without humor. "I don't think that-" "Beth! I'll fight for you. And I know that...other people will, too." "Oh, really? Like who?" He grinned. "I think you'd be surprised. You've got more people in your corner than you realize." "No kidding?" She was still humoring him, he knew. "Anyone who could put me up for the next few months?" "No, Sam, absolutely not!" Al looked anxious and ill at ease and he was pacing. "Come on, Al, it's perfect," Sam coaxed, seated on Linny's couch. "Have you convinced her to go anywhere with you?" "Well..." Sam hesitated. "Not yet, no. But I'm getting closer." "Fine, you do that. Then we'll talk." "Al..." Al blew out a cloud of smoke, but didn't respond. "It's perfect. You weren't married in `80, were you?" Al cocked his head. "No...I was just getting over my divorce from my second wife. You know, uh...uh..." He snapped his fingers, trying to recall. "Second? Already?" Al shrugged, not meeting his eyes. "Well, okay, see? Where were you stationed?" "D.C. Just for a few more months, though." Al stopped pacing and rounded on his friend. "Sam, I just...I just think it's a bad idea. How are you going to convince her to go there?" "I just won't tell her where we're going." Al raised his eyes heavenward. "Boy, this plan just keeps getting better and better!" "Or...you?" Sam spoke the word with an upward slope, as if questioning. "What? You're just gonna drop by on my doorstep and say, `Hi, Commander! This is your ex-wife of 11 years - although 5 to you - remember her? We want to live with you for a few days'? How far have you thought this through, Sam?" The leaper took a deep breath. "Al...it's her life we're talking about here." Al shook his head stubbornly. "Sam, you know I'd give my life for hers, but... I just think there's got to be a better way." "Okay, we've got to take her somewhere where Dirk can't find her and we've got to stay with someone who is willing to help protect her should he manage to locate us. Who was your nomination again?" Al paused. "You." "She doesn't know me. She doesn't trust me. She knows Linny and she barely trusts her. And I think part of that is because she met her after she stopped trusting anybody. But she knew you before." Sam stood up and took a step towards his friend. "You told me Linny said she was starting to fall apart and we needed to be careful with her. Well, in just the two times I've seen her, I'd have to say Linny was right on the button. She is starting to fall apart, and it's going to happen in less than a week unless we do something." Al pulled the cigar from his mouth and studied it too carefully. "I'm afraid of what will happen," he admitted. "I just got divorced, in a sense, for the first time. I ended something I thought was worth nothing because she wasn't Beth. And I hadn't started drinking yet, but I was starting to get real bitter about the whole thing. It was hard, realizing for the first time that true love wasn't going to strike twice, and I just think...it's just not a good idea." Sam spread his hands out in front of him. "It's got to be better than this. Doesn't it?" "I don't know how I'd react in `80. Hell, if she showed up here tomorrow, I don't know what I'd do." "Well, I'm not just doing this for her, Al." He rubbed his hand across his face. "That's what I was afraid of. Mr. Got-To-Save-The-World Beckett." Then he sighed. "Okay, Sam, I trust you to do what you have to do. I just don't have to like it is all." "Good. Dirk has a meeting of some council or another he's on tonight. I convinced Beth to call me when he left for that. In the meantime, is there some way we can find out where they were planning to go on their vacation?" "Unless they weren't planning to fly. Why?" Al tucked the cigar back between his lips and started entering requests for information. "Because after talking with Beth earlier today, I'm even more convinced that whatever this trip is ends up being the factor that leads her to push him. And then he kills her." "Maybe she's just afraid of spending all that time with him." Sam shook his head. "No... I don't think she's afraid of him. Not anymore, not really." "You caught that too, huh? I was hoping it was just me. You think that's why she won't leave him?" "Maybe," Sam agreed reluctantly. "I don't think so, either. It's something more than that, but I can't figure what." "Me neither. It seems Beth is the only one who knows and she's not talking." "She's such a different person," Al said quietly. "She used to be so open and honest - she never played anything close to the vest." "Times, they are a-changin'," Sam replied. Al grimaced. "Yeah," he agreed, "really."