Chapter 23

Al marched down the ramp of the Imaging Chamber. It was early evening now. 
His stomach rumbled hungrily. It had been a while since lunch. Al was tired 
and weary.
He had sat by Sam's bedside, talking for a bit and watching the doctors and 
nurses come and go. There had been no change in Sam's condition the entire 
time. Not that Al had expected one. He didn't know why he had stayed so late, 
but he couldn't bring himself to leave. It wasn't until he caught himself 
nodding off in the chair that he had gotten up the will to leave.

He relinquished the handlink to Gooshie. The man looked as tired as Al felt. 
Black circles were starting to appear under the programmer's eyes. Al knew 
that monitoring was difficult sometimes, even under the best circumstances.

"Gooshie, you should turn in. You look beat."

The handlink had dissapeared into Ziggy's main console and Gooshie was 
checking the data between it and Ziggy. "I will, Admiral. Right after I 
finish downloading this data." He rubbed a weary hand across his eyes.

Al shook his head. How Gooshie could stay up all night playing with Ziggy was 
beyond him. Especially with Tina waiting. He nodded goodnight and headed off 
to his quarters.

Beth was waiting for him with a mug of hot chocolate. Al took the mug and 
drank a sip of the velvety fluid. It warmed him from the inside out.

Placing the mug on an end table, Al nearly fell into the nearest chair. Beth 
came up behind him and put her hands on his neck. She began to massage in 
slow circles, releasing some of his pent up frustration.

Al moaned quietly, surprised at how good that felt. He was more tense than he 
had realized. He hung his head down so she could reach his neck better.

"How is Sam doing?" she questioned as her fingers probed a particularly tight 

"No change. The doctors think that paralysis could be involved." He shuddered 
slightly at the thought.

Beth placed a gentle kiss on his neck. "Let's hope for the best." She 
finished his neck and came around to face him. "I called the hospital in 
Alamagordo while you were with Sam."

He brought his head up sharply. Donna. How could he forget about Donna? "How 
is she doing?" He started to stand.

Beth put a restraining hand on his shoulder. "Just fine. She is checked into 
room 316. The baby is healthy. 7lbs 4oz. You can visit her tomorrow." She 
pushed him back into the chair and gave him back the mug of hot chocolate. 
"Right now, you are going to relax, and I'll get you something to eat."

Al sipped gingerly. In spite of the rumbling in his stomach, he really didn't 
want to eat. He wanted to sleep. He removed his jacket. "I'm not really 
hungry." He protested.

She frowned at him. "Are you sure? Not even a sandwich?"

"Not right now." He finished the hot drink. "I'm too tired to bother." He 
removed his vest and laid it on top of his jacket.

She helped him stand then. "Well, it's off to bed with you. No protesting." 
She turned out the lights as she led him off to the bedroom.

Al was too exhausted to even try. He let her lead him and sank into the bed 
when it appeared in his view. He was asleep as soon as his head hit the 

Beth smiled down at her sleeping husband. If it wasn't for the dire situation 
they were now in, she would be laughing. Al never went to bed fully dressed 
anymore. She gently removed his shoes and placed them under the bed. Pulling 
the covers up and over him, she kissed him goodnight, then went to get ready 
for bed herself.


Al was dreaming. Or at least he hoped he was. He was once again at the scene 
of the accident. He could see Sam's car heading down the road. He waved his 
arms to get Sam's attention. "SAAAAAAM!! NO!! Oh God NO!!" He watched as the 
black car swerved into Sam's path.

Once again the car struck Sam's. Al watched in horror as the scene played out 
once again in his mind. He saw Sam's head bounce off the steering wheel and 
whiplash backward. He saw the other people strike the windows and bounce 
around like rag dolls. He watched helplessly as the car spun around and 
flipped over before coming to rest.

He screamed at the sky. "Why, God? Why?" He watched uselessly as Sam was 
removed and CPR was begun. "NOOOO!!!" He tried to help but his hands went 
through his best friend. "NNOOOOO!!" He screamed... "Oh 
God...Nooo......Please, not Sam. Don't do this!" Blood was everywhere, Sam's 
torn body was dying.

"NOOOOOOOOO!!" Al sat upright in bed. Panic raced through his body and his 
stomach clenched. He threw the covers aside and raced for the bathroom. He 
barely made it before the retching began.

Beth had heard his scream and had jumped up. She was about to ask what was 
wrong when he bolted out of bed and ran for the bathroom. Hearing him inside, 
she was concerned. This wasn't like Al. She heard the toilet flush and the 
water in the sink run. He emerged a few minutes later, shaky and pale.

"Al? What's wrong? You okay?" She reached for him as he stumbled back into 

He had begun to shiver. He crawled under the covers and curled up next to 
her. "I'll be fine. Bad dream s'all." He held her closely, trying to ward off 
the chill that was seeping into his bones.

She placed a hand on his head. It was warm, slightly feverish. She untangled 
herself from his clutch. "Al, you're running a temperature. I'm going to get 
you some Tylenol." He whimpered as she got up.

She retrieved the medicine, and the heavy quilt from the closet. After giving 
him the capsules, she covered him up to help break the fever that was 
beginning to overtake him. She slid back under the covers with him.

"Shhh.. It'll be okay." She soothed quietly, stroking his hair as the 
shivering continued. He had curled up under the covers, trying to get warm.

He mumbled incoherently as he slid back towards sleep. Most of what he said 
was jumbled. But she did make out a word or two. "Sam." He had spoken the 
name once before falling back asleep. The shivering was letting up some as 
his dreams overcame him once again.

Beth kissed Al once on the cheek and turned out the lights. She made sure he 
was comfortable before turning back to go to sleep herself.