"Rebirth" pt. VII

December, 2002
Stallions Gate, NM

Sam stood in the doorway and watched the commotion without feeling any
inclination to join in. The music was so loud that the wall his hand
rested against tingled slightly in rhythm with the bass. All around him
were people laughing and dancing, but he was no longer there. He was ten
years back in the same room.

New Year's Eve - 1993.

He'd turned into, as Al tactfully put it, a maniac. Fourteen, sixteen
hours a day working and no-one could get him to slow down. Determination
and inspiration both served to fuel his passion and the closer he got,
the fiercer the fire burned.

He'd been working, oddly enough, on the retrieval program when he heard
the music. He'd completely forgotten it was New Year's Eve and so,
baffled, he followed the noise up and out and found one thing that could
possibly keep him from returning to his computer: Al was dancing with

_His_ wife.

So, in a fit of childlike reasoning, he sought out Beth and urged her
onto the dance floor. Satisfied, Al traded off dance partners and Sam
stayed all night (and most of the early morning) relaxing for the first
time in weeks.

"You just gonna stand there?" Elane asked. He blinked and realized his
unbroken stare into the room had gained her attention.

"Oh," he stammered, "I'm not staying."

"Come on," she prodded, taking his hand. "One dance."

"No. I - I can't." And he couldn't. He remembered Donna and he just

She let go of his hand and pursed her lips. "Then what did you come up
here for?"

"Actually, I needed to talk to you."

"Good," she stated, a bright smile lighting up her eyes, "you can talk
while we dance." And, before he could protest further, she pulled him
into the room.

"How's it going to look when the two directors of the project are seen
dancing together?" he asked, taking her hand in his.

"Like New Year's Eve," she replied without a second's thought.

"I really do need to talk to you," he said as firmly as he could in
light of the festivity.

"About what?" She bore an equally serious expression and Sam knew, for
the hundredth time, that he'd chosen the right partner.

"Not here."

They ended the dance and she followed him out and into a vacant office.
She stood facing him in the dim lighting that poured in from the
hallway. "Hush, hush, eh?" she asked with only the barest hint of humor.

"Elane, you've been questioning the committee about how this whole place
is going to be run, haven't you?"

She lifted her chin defiantly. "Yes, I have. I had the opportunity to
speak with Admiral Calavicci earlier and he raised some points I
couldn't very well ignore."

"The committee voted yesterday: Dr. Martin Boyd is going to be our
leaper." He watched her
reaction carefully.

"Can they do that?"

"They have the last word," he confirmed.

She stared past him for an instant. "Sam, I don't know what you think of
Dr. Boyd...but I'm pretty sure this means trouble for us."

He exhaled in relief. "So am I."

"What are you thinking?"

He gripped her shoulders. "That we have to shut this operation down,
whatever it takes." He couldn't quite gauge her opinion on that. "What
are you thinking?"

She swallowed and met his gaze on even terms. "That you're right."

January, 2003
Ely, MN

The pale afternoon light filtered in through the curtains and Al sat on
the bed, watching the illumination intently. David had taken Jay out to
the park and Marina was asleep in the other bedroom. He may as well have
been the only person on the planet for how alone he felt. His attention
shifted to the left towards the night table and Beth's picture.

A suffocating sorrow closed up his throat and he slid a foot over on the
bed and rested the tip of his forefinger on the silver frame, wondering
if it ever got easier. He didn't know what to do; he wished she was
still alive so she could tell him, so she could hold him and-

 ^"Don't go, Al. Just one weekend - you can skip one weekend!"

 "You don't make a meeting with a US Senator and then not show, honey.
I'm sorry. I'll stay home next weekend, okay?"

 "Al...I know Sam was - _is_ your friend, but you've tried so long
without success. Maybe it's time to accept-"

 He whipped around to face her, anger plain on his face. "Don't say it -
dammit, don't you _ever_ say it!"

 She was regretful, but unrelenting. Her eyes transmitted the words
‘What about me?' as plain as day, but she didn't speak them. "Next
weekend?" she asked instead.

 He relaxed. "Next weekend," he vowed, kissing her gently. "We can go
Christmas shopping, okay?"

 "I love you." She held him momentarily with her gaze.

 "Love you, too." He smiled dimly. "See you Sunday evening."

 "I'll be here."^

Al pressed his fingertips against his temples. He had a lot of regrets
in his life - everything from failing Trudy to going out the night Sam
leaped, but leaving for D.C. that day topped the list. The one memory
he'd been hoping wouldn't resurface filled his mind and he closed his
eyes against it, straining not to recall.

 ^"Sir, all we need you to do is just look and identify her body, then
we can-"

 "I know," he interrupted quietly, pushing his way into the drab room,
marching into a situation he'd been certain he could handle. Until he
was in it.

 The horrible reality of what had happened hit him hard when he saw her.
He'd heard the whole story, been told the facts, but it didn't prepare
him to face the truth: that his wife was dead and she was never coming

 His throat closed up and, despite a sound of protest from the officer
behind him, he walked to the table and stared at her face. The sheet was
pulled up to her neck, no doubt to hide the horror that must have been
created by the two bullets her body absorbed. His jaw tightened as he
touched her cheek lightly, then bent and kissed her forehead tenderly.
He wanted to say he was sorry, that he loved her more than his own life
and he would never live again now. But he didn't. All emotion had been
shut off inside of him as long as he looked at her.

 Abruptly, he turned and left. He ignored the officer calling to him to
take care of other matters, didn't hear a medical intern tell the
officer to give him a few minutes, and couldn't see the people around
him in the hallway. He walked steadily all the way out to his car, sat
in the driver's seat, and stared out the front windshield for several
more minutes.

 He was now completely alone.

 The emotion came rushing back in a fierce swell which he fought for a
minute, but then it overpowered him and he sat by himself in his car,
listening to his wrenching sobs tear through the silence.^

He took a heavy breath and stared again at the face of his wife, then to
the stack of envelopes gathering dust. He'd read a couple more letters
since moving in, but they always served to leave him more despondent
than before. There was no rule that said he had to read them in order,
but, somehow, it would feel like cheating Beth if he didn't. These were
her thoughts, her innermost fears and joys. This was how she felt - this
was _her_.

He couldn't turn away from that.

Before he could second-guess himself, he'd picked up a letter.

 Mom,          May 10, 1988

As I write this, it is 3 AM. Al has work tomorrow, but he's not in yet.
Things have been getting progressively worse and Marina at least is
beginning to notice all the details, which can't be helping her
recovery. I think she feels this is somehow her fault because it was
just starting as she had her accident. Al came home drunk last night and
I'm wondering if it might not be better for the girls to be someplace
else. They shouldn't have to go through this.

All I know is...I can't do it anymore. Tonight I sit here and pray for
God to send us some help.


Al started crying. He couldn't help it. He must have cried for a good
ten minutes, silent tears dripping down his cheeks and filling his mouth
with the taste of salt.

The letter was dated the day before he met Sam.

Dr. Sam Beckett, naive farm boy, brilliant physicist, musician, and
humanitarian, and Al's closest friend for over a decade, was an answer
to a prayer. Simultaneously, he couldn't believe it and it made perfect

He put the letter back and rubbed at his eyes, trying to control, or at
least discern, the overwhelming flood of emotion. The only reaction he
could find consisted of two words: "I'm sorry." Who he spoke them to, he
never knew. At that moment, he felt very old and very tired.

Al was about to open another letter when yelling from the other room
made him jump and he almost dropped the entire stack.

"Dad! Dad, hurry!"

He rushed into Marina's bedroom to see her attempting to stand up. He
clasped both hands and pulled her to her feet. "Marina, are you okay,

She gripped Al's shoulder, smiling shakily. "I think the little one
wants out," she panted.

January, 2003
Stallions Gate, NM

For 2 ½ weeks now, Sam and Elane had tried to put a stop to the project
through legal means. Because Sam had made a stand on refusing Dr. Boyd
already, he took that front. Likewise, as Elane's protests on the nature
of the project had become somewhat public knowledge, she tried to shut
it down with Sam apparently still backing it, serving as their ace in
the hole, should it become necessary.

And, for 2 1/2 weeks, they had been unsuccessful.

Sam stood behind his desk, throwing darts at the wall. It helped him


It helped him


clear his mind.


It also wasn't working.


He hurled the last dart angrily, almost missing the board altogether. He
sighed dramatically and studied the bull's eye with open contempt,
trying to vent all his anger on something other than himself and other
people. As he started forward to collect the darts, he saw, from the
corner of his eye, Elane step into the room.

"Got a minute?"

"I have several," Sam replied miserably, abandoning the game in favor of
sinking into the chair.

She rubbed her hands anxiously on the back of the seat, too fretful to
sit. "Sam, I'm off the project."

He looked up, eyes wide in amazement. "You what?! They can't do that."

"Well...they did. They said-" she laughed softly. "-that if I had,
quote, `that much of a problem with the motives of this operation, then
I could get the hell out.'"

"They can't _do_ that," Sam insisted stubbornly.

"Get a clue!" Elane cried, suddenly fed up. They're gonna do whatever
the hell they want, and the only reason you or I are here is because,
without us, they'd have had no idea where to even start. And now the
schematics are drawn up, the equations entered in and construction
underway. They don't need us anymore."

"But the retrieval program isn't perfected yet. They can't just shut
down the project every time Boyd needs a dentist checkup - that'll waste
tremendous amounts of energy and money."

"Well," she said bluntly, "now we know why they didn't fire you."

His shoulders sagged. "Elane..."

"I'm out of the loop, Sam."

"You can still help-"

"And what? Get thrown in jail, or worse?"

"What about `whatever it takes'?"

"There are limits." She swallowed. "Put yourself in my place."

Sam stood up. "Please don't tell me I overestimated you."

She shook her head and shrugged. "I'm sorry, Sam."

"Elane!" She turned and left his office, and he dashed out after her.
"Elane, wait, please!"

She didn't listen, but just started walking down the hallway.

+Sorry again for the lag time.... I hit paydirt w/ my WIP.  I'll try
to be better about posting these more often... I'm also stalling b/c I'm
having trouble with a scene down the line - hasn't yet passed editing.
 I'm sure as soon as I bite the bullet and fix it (it won't WORK),
I'll post faster.... esp b/c I have 2 more, complete, and in line.....