"The Day After That" pt. VII

August, 1980
Washington D.C.

  Sam stood up and started pacing. Al was unusually subdued, standing quietly
and watching the scientist with alert eyes.
  "What do you mean she still dies?" Sam demanded, even though it was a
pointless question. "That was the point of coming here!"
  "I know, but in three days, Dirk finds her."
  "How? How could he possibly know where to find us?" Sam's frustration was
momentarily stifled - why was he getting more worked up than Al? "Al? Are you
okay?" He'd expected Al to rant, rave, maybe babble off in Italian, break a
few handlinks. What he didn't expect was this passive facade of calm that only
just covered a mass of nervous energy.
  Al avoided his gaze. "I remember," he said quietly. The handlink remained
tucked away as he continued the description. "She'd gone into D.C. because,
well, just because I was home and I guess she didn't want to be around me.
That night Linny and I stayed up waiting for her to come back. I think there
was even a news report about a woman who'd been found murdered that evening,
but neither of us picked up on it. I mean, they didn't have her identified, so
how would we know? But when the hours passed and she didn't come back, we
called the police. They had us come down to the station and then brought me
over to the morgue to identify her body." With a blank expression, Al drew the
cigar back up and put the stogie absently between his lips.
  Sam ran a hand through his hair and exhaled heavily. "So we just keep her
here, don't let her go into town."
  "You've got to get her to press charges, Sam. Otherwise, she'll only have
two people watching her back. But we can't do it forever and the police won't
be able to do a thing until he makes a move on her, and by then it'll be too
  "I don't know if I can."
  "You've _got_ to! Reason with her."
  "Al, I've _tried_ reasoning, remember? It didn't work. Neither did pushing,
pressing, or bringing her here."
  "I told you earlier, you're getting closer," Al persisted.
  Sam gave a grimace of exasperation. "I don't know..."
  "Well, Sam, you've got to work it out or she's gonna die."
  The edge in Al's voice caused Sam to refrain from snapping back. The admiral
wasn't trying to remind him of his duty - he was just trying to protect the
woman he loved. But, ultimately, it was Sam who was going to have to put their
plan into action. Whatever it was.

  Commander Calavicci narrowed his eyes as he read the notice from Ellie's
attorney. Things were starting to get messy and soon the mud would start
slinging. He didn't know how he was going to refrain from getting dirty,
especially when he already had two women living in his apartment. The lawyers
were sure to grab onto that and use it however they could. Al shied away from
reflecting on current housing arrangements. He didn't know how he felt about
it and he didn't _want_ to know how he felt about it.
  The woman he was in love with, who he loved more than life itself, had given
up on him, left him for dead. And then voluntarily came back. Well, maybe not
voluntarily, but she hadn't left yet. He didn't know how he felt about that,
  He also couldn't figure out Linny. Obviously a bright, intelligent woman,
but she was...inappropriate. She seemed to want to become involved in things
that were not her concern. And the way she'd looked at him the night
before...as if she knew him. As if she could read his thoughts. There was
something there - not attraction, but he couldn't place exactly what it was.
Either way, he felt distinctly uncomfortable around her. 
  He picked up the stack of mail on the counter. Several days' worth seemed to
have accumulated. The top letter was addressed to Ellie Calavicci. He heaved a
sigh of irritation and started to sift through the envelopes and magazines.
  Someone cleared her throat behind him and he turned to see Beth, looking
distinctly ill-at-ease. His breath caught in his throat, choking him, but he
swallowed back the reaction with an effort. His smile was pale and
unconvincing. "Hi."
  She brushed her hair behind her ear, a nervous habit that called forward
more bittersweet memories within him. "Hi," she returned in hushed tones.
"What are you doing?"
  He turned back towards the countertop and started sorting again. "Just
trying to organize my life," he returned, more harshly than he'd intended. He
told her he'd help her - he couldn't do this now. He couldn't snap at her and
make her feel unwelcome, like she was just another box in the way.
  He heard her take a deep breath and then she stepped up beside him. She eyed
the two growing stacks of bills and notices on the smooth counter. Then her
eyes widened slightly. "You remarried?" she asked bluntly, as if not certain
what to think or how to feel.
  "Not anymore," he returned without looking up. "Worst damn mistake I - ever
- made," he continued angrily, punctuating each word with a slap of another
letter on the hard surface in front of him. She winced with each loud noise
and he immediately regretted his anger. But he didn't apologize for it.
  "Where is she?"
  "She moved out a couple of months ago. And I'm still getting her mail," he
added, waving an offending example. "Gonna take me for every penny."
  She brushed her hair again, a movement he caught out of the corner of his
vision and he closed his eyes briefly. "How long were you married?"
  He couldn't fathom why she would be asking him this. "Beth," he began, very
nearly stopping again just from the shock of saying her name, "it's obvious
this isn't all that comfortable for either one of us. You need my help, fine.
But let's try to make this as painless as humanly possible, okay?"
  "I'm sorry... I - I shouldn't have let Linny talk me into staying. I'll go,
I promise," she said quietly, hurriedly.
  Al slapped down the last shred of Ellie's belongings left in the apartment
and turned to her. "Don't go if you can't find any other options, okay? I'm
not saying I want you to go." Inwardly, he cringed; why were all his words
coming out angry and hurt?
  She backed up a step. "I - I just don't-"
  "I never wanted you to go," he mumbled, dropping his gaze miserably.
  Time stopped.
  Beth caught her breath and took another step backwards. "I was out of - I
_am_ out of options. Or I'd leave you in peace."
  He picked up the stack of papers addressed to him. "It's not peace," he
stated. "Either way, it was never peace." With that, he turned on his heel and
left her alone in the kitchen.

March, 2000
Stallions Gate, NM

  Al perched on the corner of the Waiting Room table, watching Linny Bell with
probing eyes and as non-threatening a stance as he could manage.
  "So what you're saying is that they're - we're - in Washington D.C.?"
  Al rubbed his hands together. "Yes."
  Now for the fun part. "Beth was married once before, did you know that?"
  Linny's brow furrowed. Al knew from Sam and Beth that, chances were, she
hadn't the slightest clue about Beth's life before Dirk. "I don't think so...
Was he abusive also?"
  The question both startled and unsettled Al and it took him several seconds
to respond. "No!" he said finally, sharply. Then he relaxed slightly. "No," he
repeated, "but she thought he was dead. And, in her loneliness and
desperation, she made a bad decision."
  Linny folded her arms. "Tell me about it! Why did she think he was dead?"
  "It's a long story. Suffice it to say, that's who Sam and Beth are with."
  "I bet that one went over big. I tell you she's fragile and so you do that?
What kind of fun house is this?"
  "We think a lot of what's tearing her apart is a number of unresolved issues
with him. And she needs to face that before she can rebuild." *We both do.*
  Commander Calavicci may not have known just how he felt, but the situation
was crystal clear for the admiral: he loved her.
  Linny reached out a hand, index finger extended. "Well, if I hear you've
done anything to her that-"
  "Trust me," Al assured her, "we only want to help her." He felt a flash of
gratitude that, at the very least, Beth had a friend who was willing to stick
up for her. Like Sam.
  "Have you talked with her?"
  He smiled slightly, his eyes losing focus. "A long time ago." Then he pulled
himself out of the new memories and back into awareness. "I need to go check
up on Sam, but if you can think of any ways Dirk could find out where she is,
please, tell us. We could use all the help we can get."
  "Are you worried that he will?"
  He slid to his feet and looked at her. "We're sure of it."
  She frowned at him, her eyes blue eyes intense with concentration. He turned
to go. "Admiral," she called out, stopping his retreat. "Are you okay?"
  She definitely had Sam's gift of perception. His smile came easier than he
would have expected it to. "Yeah, I'm just...worried about her."
  Linny focused her bright eyes on his. "You must know her well."
  "Why do you say that?" he asked, cocking his head.
  "Because you're in love with her."
  The smile faded slightly, but his eyes glittered in the blue lighting. He
raised his eyebrows and looked at her with a bizarre mixture of amusement and
hurt. Then he patted her arm and left the Waiting Room.
  For once, Verbena wasn't standing sentry outside the door, lying in wait for
him. He breathed a sigh of relief - wasn't in the mood to be psychoanalyzed.
  Squaring his shoulders, he headed off down the sterile hall to try, yet
again, to talk to Sam and come to a decision about how to stop the worst
nightmare of his life.