"Basis of Control" pt. X October, 1999 Stallions Gate, NM After a moment, the real truth behind what Al had first taken as a threat presented itself in Al's mind. "You want to die," he stated. The stranger just stared. "Before or after you kill me?" he added sarcastically. "Shut up!" he screeched, swinging again before Al could even figure out how to get around it. This time, he aimed low (if he was even coherent enough to aim) and Al heard the unmistakable crunch of bone as it connected with his right leg. Al didn't even care. Adrenaline was now pumping so hard he could hardly feel the pain. "You owe me an explanation," he commanded in cold tones. "Why you terrorized my family, why you sent me those messages." "I know all about you," the man said, pacing a semi-circle around Al. Al kept his eyes trained on the weapon. As long as the stranger managed to maintain distance, Al didn't have a prayer. "I know about what you and Sam Beckett do. But he's already paying for his transgressions, isn't he? He's trapped in time! But you - what's your excuse for taking part in this?" "Who are you?" Al demanded, his eyes clearly transmitting the words, *I don't owe you anything!* "My name is David Tucker and because of something you did, my two daughters died." "Oh, God." The exclamation slipped out before Al could stop it, as realization hit. "Dr. Beckett saved the life of a mechanic and, because of him, the brakes gave out while-" Dave choked back a sob and Al swallowed the bile that rose in his throat. "You have no right to judge. How do you know they didn't die in the other history, too?" Dave lifted the pole again, tears now flowing freely down his face. "Doesn't matter," he muttered. Al's fury hadn't abated at all, but the sudden cry for survival overrode his urge to attempt to kill Dave where he stood. Instead, he seized on the first idea his already cloudy brain provided him with. He straightened, still clutching at the mirror to keep standing. "Maybe they died because you deserved it," he said coldly. Hot rage flashed in his assailant's eyes and he swung at Al's head, but Al ducked and rolled on the hard pavement. Instead, the pole crashed through the car window and the blaring sound of a car alarm echoed under the low ceiling of the parking garage. Sweating with the exertion, Al tried to struggle back to his feet but, without the car as his crutch, his leg buckled under him and he fell back to the ground, an involuntary cry of pain ripped from his throat. "You had no right," Dave cried. "You can't understand. I told Jonathan you could never understand - never! Not until it happened to you." That renewed Al's resolve and he launched himself from his good leg, landing with his full weight against Dave. The two crashed into a support column and Al dealt him two solid blows in the face, anger now the only thing propelling him forward. Dave shook himself free and, without support, Al found himself back on the ground. Dave lifted the pole, but Al grabbed one end, preventing him from using it as a weapon anymore. Instead of surrendering it when it was clear Al was in no position to use it himself, he fought, clinging to it with all his might. Just as he jerked it free of Al's grasp, something smashed into him from the left and the pole clattered far out of reach. The newcomer clambered to his feet and Dave was up right after him. "Jonathan," Dave snarled. "I'll be dead in a few minutes, so we may as well have this out right now. You betrayed me and traitors are the worst things people can be." "I couldn't let you kill his daughters, Dave. I couldn't." Jonathan sounded almost apologetic. "Why don't you stop this and we'll see if we can't get you some help?" "Look out!" Al cried as Dave reached inside his jacket. Al kicked out with his left leg and hooked Dave's ankle, pushing the man off balance just as he pulled out the gun. Jonathan, who would surely have been shot, ducked as the shot went wild. Dave regained his stance in seconds and, without hesitation, turned the gun on himself. "No!" Jonathan yelled and lunged for the weapon. It went off a second time, this time firing harmlessly at the ceiling. While the two struggled, Al made his way back to the destroyed car and, reaching in, pulled out the first object his hand met with. Grunting with the effort, he flung it with all the force he had left and watched with no small degree of satisfaction as it connected with Dave's skull. The gun skittered across the uneven pavement and Jonathan took advantage of Dave's unsteadiness to intertwine his fingers and use his arms as a club to - finally - knock Dave into unconsciousness. Al let out a long breath and sagged against the hood, watching as Jonathan stood, panting, over the motionless body of David Tucker. "Hey," he said and Jonathan turned in his direction. Al managed a weak smile. "Thanks." Jonathan seemed to come out of his trance and he looked towards Al. "Are you okay?" he asked, frowning as Al lowered himself the rest of the way to the ground. "I think your friend there broke my leg." "He's my brother," Jonathan corrected, moving to crouch beside Al. Al shook his head. "What are you, a Boy Scout or somethin'? You could have gotten yourself hurt, kid." "So could you," he pointed out, standing and holding out a hand to help pull Al back to his feet. "Sure," Al conceded heavily as he put his arm around Jonathan's shoulders, seeking stable support. "But I'm still under warranty." Jonathan groaned in frustration. "Geez, Al, do you have to make jokes? You _never_ take anything-" He stopped abruptly. Al froze and pulled back minutely to look Jonathan in the eyes. "Sam?" he hazarded. "Oh, Sam, is it really you?" Sam tried to reply, but found he couldn't. Instead, he just nodded, his eyes glistening. Al moved forward and winced. He muttered a curse softly under his breath. Sam took a shaky breath and gripped Al's arm, only partly to assist his friend. "Al..." He swallowed. "We've got to get you inside. Can you walk?" Al tried to look affronted, but then just leaned against Sam's shoulder. He was certain that wasn't what Sam wanted to say. "I don't think so." He grimaced. "Shut up that stupid alarm, willya?" Sam left Al leaning against the car again and reached into the vehicle. Seconds later, it faded into silence. "Okay, let's-" "Sam." Al's voice was very quiet and Sam looked away. He knew what was coming. He opened the door to the passenger's side, brushed shards of glass off the seat, and helped Al maneuver into it. "Sam," Al repeated when he was situated, "look at me." Sam complied reluctantly. "What are you here for? What happened in the original history?" "Al, I don't think-" "Please, Sam." Sam turned away and ran a hand across his face. "Originally, Dave rigged Beth's car so that the brakes gave out," he said in flat tones. "Marina was killed and Julia ended up in ICU. They didn't count her chances as being so good, from what you told me." Al stared at Jonathan's brother. "I'll kill him," he murmured, struggling to rise from the seat. "Dammit, Sam, where's that gun? I'll kill him!" "Al!" Sam pushed him back easily. "Stop! It's over, Al." Al leaned forward and buried his face in his hands; Sam stood silently beside him. "But I lived," he muttered bitterly. "Originally, you weren't even attacked," Sam said after a moment. "But when I saved Marina and Julia, history changed and Verbena showed up as my observer and said you were in the hospital with wounds-" he gestured to Al's leg "-worse than this. She said you'd be in for at least a month. And...she said there was some permanent damage." Al looked up at his friend. "Thank you, Sam. I owe you more than I could ever- I owe you my life." "Just returning the favor." He smiled. "And, according to Ziggy's statistics, we're still not even." "Sam...this isn't my life we're talking about here, or even Beth's. There are my kids' lives. Whatever you felt you owed me before...you don't anymore." Sam was silent, but Al reached out and grabbed his arm and smiled at the action. "What?" Al prompted at Sam's expression. "Oh, nothing. It just...seems so long since you've had anything to smile about." Al stared intensely at him and then turned away, his eyes resting instead on Dave. "What do we do with him?" Sam leaned over him and took his pulse. "Seems steady. I don't want to leave him here - he could come around at any moment." He glanced back toward Al. "Give me the keys to the car and I'll drive you both back to the main entrance." "Sam," Al laughed, "this isn't my car! I wonder whose it is, though." "It's not?" Sam grinned in spite of himself. "Okay, well...I'll hot wire it." Al shook his head. "That does it. I definitely have to beef up security." Sam dragged Dave into the back seat and climbed into the driver's seat. "When are you gonna tell me the whole story, Sam?" Al asked quietly, grunting as he repositioned his leg. Sam reached down and fiddled with wires Al couldn't see until the car roared to life. "I'm not." Al paused. "_He's_ not here, is he?" "No. Very briefly a few minutes back, but not now. I think you're - he's just worn out." "Oh." "He said he'd be back later." Sam started to honk the horn as he pulled around towards the main entrance. "If you have a later," Al muttered solemnly. "We still have to decide what to do with Dave," Sam pointed out, putting the car into park and turning it off. "The guy needs a lot of help." "No kidding," Al said angrily, pushing open the car door as Lieutenant Collins exited the building. "You know what I think we should do to him." "Admiral," Collins was saying as he neared Al's position. He eyed the figure in back, still slumped over onto the seat. "What happened?" "Long story. Help me inside, would you?" He motioned to Dave. "And get him under armed guard." "Aye, sir." Collins supported Al from one side and Sam from the other as they walked him just inside the lobby area and eased him down onto a chair. Al flinched when his foot touched the floor. "Get my wife, Lieutenant," he said roughly. "This is really starting to hurt, Sam," he added quietly as Collins left to carry out the rest of his orders. "I'll go to the infirmary and get you something," Sam hissed back. "No. Sam!" Al called as Sam started to walk away. "You're Jonathan, remember? That's not gonna work." He gritted his teeth. "I'll just wait for Beth to get down here." Sam knelt by the chair. "Just breathe. You'll be fine." He reached out to check Al's pulse. "It's just the adrenaline wearing off." "Swell." Al pulled off his jacket. "Will you stop with the pulse? I'm fine, Sam." "Al?!" Beth emerged suddenly from the elevator and gasped slightly. "Are you all right? What happened?" She ran to him and he grabbed her hand. "Beth...it's over." She fell to her knees in front of Al, tears shining in her eyes, and hugged him. "Thank God," she whispered. She leaned back on her heels and cast a look at Sam. Al smiled slightly. "I'll tell you the whole story later but...Beth...do you know who he is?" She shook hear head mutely, but she was looking curiously at him. Sam looked back at her. "It's me, Beth. It's Sam." She broke into a warm smile and pulled him into a hug. "Sam, it's so good to see you. Well," she added, blushing slightly, "you know what I mean." Al touched her shoulder. "He saved our daughters, honey." She glanced uncertainly at Al, then Sam again. She didn't say a word, but her eyes held all the gratitude that language couldn't express. Sam just grinned and squeezed her hand. "Do you have something we can give to Al?" he asked, drawing the conversation off of such a high emotional level. "He broke his leg." "_I_ didn't break it," Al retorted. "Oh...we may need to take you to a hospital, Al," she said, bending to study the damage. He gasped and clutched at the arm of the chair as she pressed to determine if it was really broken. "Sorry." "Right," he panted. "Just shoot me now." "I said I was sorry, Mr. Martyr," she said again. Then she looked up at Sam. "How long do you think you're going to be around?" He frowned. "I really don't know. I'm surprised I haven't already leaped as it is." Al waved them away. "He'll leave when I say he can leave. Now can I _please_ have something? Hit me over the head, cut off the darned thing, something!" Sam laughed. "Being a little dramatic, aren't we?" "Come a step closer and say that." Sam touched his shoulder and squeezed it lightly. Al flinched. "What?" Beth asked. He exhaled heavily. "Well...he got me there, too." "Al, youíre the only man I know who can hide how much pain heís in while complaining about how much pain heís in." She glanced at the leaper. "You couldn't have shown up five minutes earlier?" Sam just shrugged. She held him with a steady gaze, reaching for Alís hand again. "Thank you, Sam. For everything." Eventually, Sam and Beth were able to dig up the proper facilities to tend to Al at the project (mostly due to his continued insistence that he didn't want to go into any hospital). Al's one regret was that he was unable to tell his daughters that Jonathan Tucker was really Sam Beckett and, though they all enjoyed a dinner together, it was through the facade Sam put up. Evening fell and, though the rest of the project was not privy to Sam's presence, Al still managed to get him to his own quarters for the night. The one question was: why was he still there?