AUTHOR'S NOTES:  Finally.  I apologize for taking FOREVER with this.  It's
all Ann Marie's fault.   She ran off to be an Observer in Alaska,
then she joined the Navy.  She hasn't there, on-line, to constantly pester
me about it.  I'd like to thank Ann Marie, Pat, and Jennie for all their
usual support and guidance, though they've probably forgotten by now what
they did (unless they have all the emails and/or IM chats).

"Less Than Perfect"
Christina L. Bartruff


DECEMBER 24, 2000,

	It had been a emotional day for Al.

	He had stood, holding Beth, for a long time before he opened his eyes and
looked at her.  Then he kissed her.  He knew her well enough to knew she
sensed a difference about him.  She didn't say anything, but he saw it in
her eyes.

	They returned to the Christmas party and Al marveled how the same staff
couldn't plan the same party for the same day.  Naturally, he got stuck
doing the same thing.  This time, Al didn't mind so much.  It gave him the
chance to be with his children and grandchildren.  He pried Sammie Jo away
from Trudi, who was planning the scientist's maternity wardrobe and wedding
dress with enthusiasm, long enough to find out how she was doing.  Sammie
Jo had that vague sense as before, but nothing she could recall clearly.
Al was grateful for that.

	They were alone, their family members had all turned in, though it was
still before ten.  Beth had put `It's A Wonderful Life' on.  It was her
favorite movie and she preferred the original black and white version to
the more update colorized versions.  Al, muttering darkly about angels, let
her curl up next to him on the couch in their private sitting room.

	``I almost forgot,'' Al said suddenly in Beth's ear.  He reached around the
picture on the little end table.  In his hand was a wrapped gift.  ``I have
an early Christmas gift for you.''

	She gave a gentle chuckle.  ``I wonder where I heard *that* line before.''
Beth examined the gift and shook it.  Curiosity won out and she opened it.
Inside the box was a ruby encrusted heart pendant.

	``It's beautiful, Al,'' she breathed, carefully removing the chain.  She let
the dim sitting room lights catch the stones.  ``I don't have an early gift
for you, though.''

	Al chuckled, realizing she said the same thing, all those years before.
``Marry me,'' he murmured in her ear.

	Beth turned her head to look at him over her shoulder.  ``Didn't I already
do that, thirty-nine years ago? The girls are certainly going to be
surprised to hear this.''

	``Just reliving the day.''  Of course, his plans for tonight were different
from the night he proposed.

	Beth snuggled closer to him as they sat on the couch, his arms wrapped
around her.  Forty years ago, Christmas Eve, Al had proposed to her.  ``Once
again, you didn't get down on bended knee.''  She sighed theatrically.
``I'll have to think about it.  I might get a better offer.''
	``What can I do to convince you to accept my proposal?'' he asked, seductively.

	``Agree, without protest, to renewing our vows this June,'' she replied

	``Anything else?''

	``Yes.  Promise to tell me what happened.'' 

	Al studied her face.  She'd get the truth from him, eventually.  ``I
promise,'' he replied sincerely. `` Anything else?''

	She gave him one of her smiles.  ``Oh, you'll think of something.  You
always do.''