[Author's Note: this opening scene was very difficult to write - even more difficult to post. I welcome all comments, positive or negative, but if you're going to respond in regards to this part, please keep that in mind and be kind. Thanks. -amkt] "Basis of Control" pt. XII October, 1999 Stallions Gate, NM ^Sam was breathing hard. Angered, he threw a pillow across the room. "That self-righteous jerk!" he muttered angrily to himself. "This can't go on much longer." Whatever Dave had gone to the airport for, he obviously didn't accomplish it, which delighted Sam to no end, but it also made Dave irritable. And he took out his frustrations on Sam. They'd just spent the last ten minutes in a rather harmless physical fight, but Sam was willing to bet Dave didn't see it that way. At any rate, it had left Jonathan's hotel room in shambles. Sam laid down on the bed and stared at the ceiling. He was almost as out of control as Dave and he had to get a handle on things before they started to work against him. Though he hadn't really fought Dave, just defended himself, that didn't mean he wasn't angry. He closed his eyes and concentrated on slowing his breathing. From somewhere, the sound of Al punching in came to his ears and Sam opened his eyes and sat up to follow the sound to its source. What met Sam's eyes made him inhale sharply and put a hand to his face. In the corner of the room amid a scattering of papers, leaning against a wall Sam couldn't see, was Al. His eyes were closed tightly and his knees were drawn almost up to his chin. His whole body trembled as silent tears slipped down his face and silent agony tore at his heart. "Al," Sam whispered and immediately he knelt to the floor beside his treasured companion, wishing he could touch him, hold him, do anything to ease his pain. "Al, what happened?" Al opened his eyes and seemed to look straight through Sam as if he wasn't even there. "Al?" Sam repeated in low tones. He eased himself closer. Al just shook his head, tears slipping from velvet eyes. Nothing new had really happened, the leaper realized; it was just that everything was starting to catch up with him. Sam's heart ached for his friend. "It's okay, Al," he soothed. "Everything's going to be okay. I'm right here; you don't have to say anything." He felt as if he was talking to a child. "I'm right here, Al." "He killed her, Sam, oh, God..." Al chanted breathlessly, staring past Sam at the wall. "How could he - kill her?" He spoke amid sobs, as if trying to break through his own grief. "I don't - understand." Sam put out a hand one inch and five days away from Al's figure. "I don't understand it, either, Al. But I'll stop it. I swear I'll stop it!" "No...you can't... He won't let you..." Al drew in upon himself, closing off more and more. "I can, Al. We can. You have to believe that." Sam watched him anxiously, searching for anything - a glimmer of hope, a mustard seed of faith - and saw nothing but emptiness. And it scared him. Al was, by nature and nurture both, a fighter. He had an incredible talent for finding the joy in a life that had brought him so much pain, but losing his children...that could break him. Al focused on Sam for the first time and the scientist flinched at the impact of the connection. "I don't have anything to believe in anymore," he whispered so quietly that Sam had to strain to hear him. The scientist watched him try to take a breath that didn't shake. "You live all your life - believing in things. And once it fails you...what do you have left, Sam?" "Al, I know it must hurt. But I know you and I care about you. And I can't stand by and watch you give up." Sam thought he caught a faint spark of understanding in Al's eyes, but it vanished as soon as it had come. "Please...Al..." "Sam, I can't - put faith in this and risk it falling apart. You don't understand." "Tell me," Sam implored simply. Alís frenzied breathing began to steady as he sought to capture the emotions he had forced himself to face. "It's like...having your heart ripped out. There's just no reason left - for anything." "You have four other reasons, Al. Four good reasons." Sam hoped he was reaching him, but then the interaction faded again. Al tilted his head against the wall and choked back a sob. "She was so...wonderful, Sam. She was so determined, so beautiful, so young... She had a gentleness that was so like Beth and she - she would have made a wonderful mother." Al spoke the last through clenched teeth and then he turned his gaze upwards. "She'll never be a mother. She'll never-" He brought his hand to his eyes as a fresh assault tore at him, overwhelming him, pressing in with heartwrenching force. Sam wiped his own tears away, tears that were falling more through his strong connection with Al than any recollection of Marina on his own. "Al," he murmured. "Al, it's okay." "Please, Sam, don't leave me alone." "I won't-" "Please..." Al curled up tighter, hugging his knees with one arm and shielding his face with the other. "Al," Sam said firmly, speaking over Al's pleas, "I could _never_ let you do this alone." Al remained silent, rocking slowly and never looking at Sam. Sam just sat by his side, wishing repeatedly that he could touch his companion. Wishing there was some way he could carry this for him. There were some who would have derived some perverse pleasure at seeing Al reduced to this state. Dave was probably one of them. People Al had offended during his drinking days. Subordinates and superiors he had overstepped his bounds with. Dr. Sam Beckett, his friend, would rather have died. Sam leaned over him and put a hand out, as if to touch Al's curls. "I'll take care of it, Al. I'll take care of them," he said, his voice hardly a whisper. Al never heard - he was far away, lost in a nightmare he couldn't awake from. Wherever he was, he wasn't alone, and there was some part of him, Sam sensed, that knew that. It was for that reason that Sam remained at his side for the next thirty minutes, not talking, not moving, just holding vigil. Sam wasn't sure how it happened so quickly, but he heard a noise and looked up to see Dave in the doorway. Immediately, he reached for a fallen paper, as if he was trying to clean up the clutter. "Hey," Dave said roughly, "do you want to help me or not?" Sam was suddenly filled with a rage towards this man, but he calmed himself, avoiding adding any more turmoil to Al's world. Sam stared at Al, motionless in the corner, and hesitated. He said he wouldn't leave Al alone - he'd promised. Then a woman materialized beside him and Sam watched Al's wife put her arms around him, sharing without burdening. Beth had her eyes closed tightly, her head laying on Al's back, and she, too, was crying. Sam turned to Dave and mumbled something to get him out of the room, to give Al his privacy. In the instant before he shut and locked the door, he caught one last glimpse of the couple, clinging to each other as if to life itself, and he knew in that instant that whatever happened, whatever sacrifice was required, Sam would give it. Such was the measure of friendship.^ "You getting reacquainted with everything?" Al asked as he maneuvered into the room clumsily on the crutches. Sam jerked into full awareness with a start and stared at Al, the memory he'd just relived still fresh in his mind. "Al..." Al smiled uncertainly. "Hey. Sam, you okay, kid?" "What?" Al moved in front of Sam and leaned the crutches against the bed. "You're crying." "What?" Sam repeated, swinging his legs around over the side of the bed and wiping his hand across his eyes. He stared at the moisture on his palm, then glanced back up at Al. Without stopping to think, he stood up and embraced his friend. This Al hadn't suffered the loss of one, potentially two, children. He hadn't watched his wife mourn at Julia's bedside, hadn't been there himself. This Al Calavicci was fully functional, in control of himself and his emotions. But Sam hugged him tightly, trying to give what he couldn't offer in his friend's time of greatest need. When Sam finally pulled away he dropped his gaze and took a step back. Al studied him with shrewd eyes. "You all right?" Sam swallowed. He couldn't quite find a smile, but his attempt made Al relax moderately. "Sure. Al, I'm fine." Al didn't really look as if he believed him. "Is this really how I left the place?" Sam asked, glancing around the quarters. Al let the sentence hang before allowing the topic to shift from such a high emotional level down to the equivalent of discussing the weather. "Yeah," he said, glancing at the empty spot where he'd removed the pictures of Donna earlier that day. "Pretty much." "It's like a dream," Sam murmured, a small smile slowly emerging. Al's gaze softened. "Speaking of which, why don't you get some sleep?" "No," Sam replied hastily. "Al...I'm home. I was hoping..." He glanced at Al, then turned away. "What?" Al prompted, lowering himself carefully into the easy chair. "I was hoping we could talk. You know, about nothing." He grinned. This was what he had been waiting for. Al's eyes were bright. "Nothing's going to change overnight, Sam." "I know, but-" "Look... I have something I really have to take care of, okay? So why don't you at least catch a couple hours and I'll be back then?" Sam stood up. "I don't want to lose this time," he said quietly. He didn't know how he could bear it if something _did_ change and he leaped out before he could take advantage of what he had. "Sam, when are you going to tell me what's bothering you? Did...he tell you why you're still here?" "No..." Sam said slowly. "No," he repeated, a touch surprised. "I hadn't even thought of it. Geez, I hope he's okay." Al's brow knitted. "This is weird." "He hasn't come back at all," Sam continued as if Al hadn't even spoken. His voice rose slightly in pitch with worry. "I really need to talk to him!" "Sam, take it easy," Al said, a bit sharply. "You sure you don't want to tell me why you're so upset?" Sam considered the offer, but he simply could not envision himself telling Al about the scene in the hotel room. As much as he needed assurance that Al was all right, he needed it from his guide in his future, not the man in front of him. He shook his head, twisting his hands into an anxious knot. "Yeah, I'm sure." Al still looked uncertain. "Just relax, okay? I'll be back in a couple hours and we can talk all you want." "Okay," Sam conceded reluctantly. He handed off Al's crutches to him. "Try and take it easy on that leg," he added, staring at the floor. "Yes, Doctor," Al replied, trying to draw a smile. When the attempt failed, he put a hand on Sam's shoulder. "It'll be okay, Sam. Everything will. You'll see." Beth dialed Sam's extension and sat on the edge of the bed, exhaustion beginning to take it's toll now that the worry and anxiety were starting to fade. She was just glad the whole thing was over with - the last few days had been insane. A broken leg was a small price to pay to save the lives of two people, and she knew Al saw it the same way. "Hello?" The voice on the other end of the line sounded tired. "Sam?" Beth hazarded. Al had posted a guard to Sam's quarters just in case Sam did leap out and Jonathan returned. However, they wouldn't know when that happened until Sam, or Jonathan rather, confirmed that for them. "Beth?" Sam returned. "Is something wrong?" "No," she assured him hastily. "I just wanted to tell Al when Marina was leaving. I won't take too much of his time; I know the two of you are eager to talk while you can." "He's not here," Sam replied, a hint of disappointment in his voice. "He's - he's not?" she stuttered, amazed. "Did he say where he was going?" "No. He just said he'd be back in a few hours. That was...almost two hours ago." "Oh. Well...thanks, Sam. I'll hunt him down for you." "Bye." She didn't know Sam as well as Al did, but he sounded a little down to her, more so than she would have thought he would be. He may only have been home to visit, but at least he was home. "Ziggy, where is Al?" "Admiral Calavicci is in the Control Room," Ziggy responded. "Why?" She squinted at the ceiling. "None of your business," she retorted. "Well!" the computer replied, thoroughly miffed. Beth simply shook her head. Why would Al leave Sam like that? It just wasn't like him. When Beth entered the Control Room, she saw Gooshie in one corner, looking as if he was trying not to listen to what was going on. In the center of the room was Al, definitely agitated. "What do you _mean_ you can't?" he demanded. "I wanted to do this for him, Ziggy. We don't know how much time he has here, do we?" "Not at present." "And you don't know what could trigger his leap out, do you?" "Admiral, I don't appreciate your tone." Al rolled his eyes. "You don't appreciate..." he muttered under his breath. "Does this mean it's over?" There was a long pause. "Yes." Al took a deep breath and closed his eyes. "Damn," he whispered. "Al?" Beth called, drawing his attention. He looked momentarily startled, then recovered almost immediately. "Beth. Something wrong?" "With Sam," she replied. "Why aren't you with him?" She looked more carefully at him. "What's going on, Al?" "Nothing." "Bull," she replied angrily. "You're upset about something." Al let out a heavy breath. "Come here," he said, drawing her into the opposite corner from Gooshie. "I shouldn't even be telling you this..." "_What_?" Beth was starting to become completely exasperated. "Donna's dead." She sighed in realization. "Oh, is that why you're upset? Because now that Sam's here, she's not? Al, it wasn't your fault." "Yes it _is_!" he insisted fiercely. Gooshie looked up. "Al, I realize I've lost sight of that problem in light of everything with the girls, but maybe now it's time to talk about that. What happened to Donna isn't your fault. I know you've been lying to me about it, but I know whatever did happen, it wasn't your fault. I just can't say it enough times! I know you well enough to accept that even if I don't know the whole story." "You don't understand," he said, frustrated. "That's because you won't tell me," she retorted, equally annoyed. "I keep trying to get you to talk to me!" She took his hand in hers, but he pulled away. "You don't get it," he said, careful to lower his voice so Gooshie couldn't hear. "Donna is dead. But...she died about-" he paused and looked her in the eyes "-five minutes ago."