"Lost Causes"
Part III

February, 2003
Stallions Gate, NM

Verbena entered the room and spotted Al seated on the side of one of the
beds, his head bowed, his hands gripping the edge of the mattress. She
approached him, clearing her throat when she got close enough for him to
hear it. He looked up and brightened visibly at her appearance.

"Hi," she greeted him, giving him a warm hug as if she hadn't seen him
in weeks instead of hours.

"Hey, sweetheart." He kissed her on the cheek and patted the mattress
beside him. "How's Sam?"

"Hanging in there," she responded as she hopped up next to him. "I think
he needs to see you, though. It's hard for him, being back in that part
of his past." She considered him. "And yours."

"Yeah, I bet."

"Are you up to dropping in on him?"

Al nodded slowly. "Yeah, if he needs it."

She squeezed his hand. "You're looking a lot better than earlier."

"I'm mostly just nauseous and a little shaky on my feet," he said
casually, as if it was something he dealt with all the time. Before they
hit the moment where history was changed for him, she would have said it
_was_ something he dealt with all the time, but she knew that wasn't
right anymore.

She rubbed his hand between both of hers. "I wish I could do something
about that, but it's probably because of the medication itself as much
as anything else."

He smiled mildly at her. "Don't look so solemn, Verbena."

Her reaction was to say, `Why not?' Al'd never told anyone how this
happened, and now she was ashamed of her own assumptions. "Well, Al,
it's not like you've been living with the idea, let alone the physical
repercussions for eleven years. From your point of view it's only been
two days. There's a period of adjustment that-"

"Hon, I'm not feeling well enough to be psychoanalyzed," he said

"Sorry." She stared straight ahead, recalling the moment he'd
remembered, calling to mind the sudden look of panic in his eyes, the
protectiveness that had welled up in Sam when he found out...Sam's
insistence that he leap back. "Sam wanted me to ask you if you
remembered when it happened in 1992."

"Why it happened is a better question," Al responded in low tones.

"That's the one I'd almost rather _not_ know. Any kind of motivation to
do that is just scary, but not as scary as the lack of one. Al, Sam
wants to stop it if he can, but we don't have the data so we'll have to
go by your information."

His gaze turned inwards. "'Bena, every time I turned around they were
sticking some needle in my arm: I don't remember anything. It could have
happened the day I got there or the instant before they let me go."

"They kept you drugged?" she asked in horror.

"Hon, you have no idea how lucky you are to be so shocked by that. I was
in a room, no lock on the door, twenty paces from the front exit, with
only two men in the same building, both of whom had a lot of money
riding on me. Next door was an apartment complex. Tactically speaking,
it made good sense." He took in her stricken expression with a warm
feeling. "It's good to be loved," he told her gently. "Wish I'd realized
that in 1992."

"Glad you realize it now. Just think about it and let me know if you
remember anything. We'd like to have you around for a lot longer, okay?"

"Who did...Sam leap into?"

"Derrick Adams."

An uncomfortable look clouded his eyes. "Oh." He shrugged. "Makes sense.
Tell Sam to watch his step - if he keeps doing what he's been doing,
he's going to get his employers suspicious and he'll get himself in

She could tell he was starting to remember things. "What did he do?"

"He talked to me - tried to help. Also think he missed an appointment
with the needle because I remember our conversation pretty clearly. He-"
He stopped suddenly with a small gasp and stared into the distance, his
eyes wide.

"Al?" she called in alarm, sliding back to her feet and standing in
front of him. She gripped his shoulder, trying to reach through what
could only be shock. "Al, what is it?"

He spoke through gritted teeth, his eyes shut tightly. "Flashes of
things..." He opened them abruptly and his focus seemed to bore straight
through her. "Go see Sam - tell him to give me the shot."

She was startled. "What? Why?" He didn't respond, his breathing labored,
as if he was in pain. "If he does that, you won't be able to tell Sam
what's going on. You won't remember."

"I know. Don't - care. You can be there when they talk to me and tell
Sam everything. Just - hurry."

"Al, we can't!" she cried desperately. "What if it's not a sedative in
that needle? We don't-"

"Don't care," he repeated, still fighting the memories. "Go!"

Sick with worry, she turned and ran.

April, 1992
Pomona, NE

Sam glanced at his watch: it had been four and a half hours. He'd been
sitting in the nondescript hallway outside Al's door for three and a
half hours of it. The last thing he'd wanted was to leave Al alone with
his thoughts (which, he knew, were more destructive than anything anyone
could do to him), but he'd lost his friend's shaky trust with his lie,
and it would take time to regain it. In 1992, Al didn't trust anyone

Another five minutes passed and then Sam decided he couldn't wait any
longer. Marcus had said five hours, but he didn't want to cut anything
too close. Besides, he still had to tie his friend back up, and it was a
task he wasn't looking forward to. He'd found some gauze to wrap around
Al's wrists, though, which he was hoping would help with the rope burn.
He stood and opened to door to see Al standing, which was a good sign,
he decided.

"How do you feel?" he asked the man in front of him.

Al looked up, his eyes haunted. "I could still use a drink."

Sam didn't respond to the comment. "I'm afraid I have some bad news."

"Bad news?" he echoed. "I was kidnapped a week ago, haven't seen the
sunlight in days, can't remember hardly anything that's gone on... What
could you possibly have to tell me?"

Sam held up the ropes in his hand. "Marcus is going to be back soon."

Al blinked and his expression held dread. "So why don't you just let me
go?" he pressed. "You don't want me here, I sure as hell don't want me
here. Unless I miss my mark, you've been lying and there's no-one else
around to stop you from doing it."

He was stuck, torn between what he needed to do and what he wanted to
do. "I can't, Al. I'm sorry, but I can't - not yet." He took a step
forward and Al backed into the corner.

"What the hell are you doing - just screwing with me, is that it?!" he
cried, fear giving his words a sharp edge. "Just - just waiting to see
what I'll do next so you can turn around and betray me again?"

Sam didn't move forward, but held his ground. "No, Al, that's not it."
He swallowed hard. "Please, you can argue with me about this later; for
now, we're running out of time."

"Stay away from me," Al warned and suddenly Sam saw the knife he'd left
behind glinting in Al's hand.

*Damn, how could I be so stupid?* Sam remained rooted to the spot. "Al,
you don't really want to do that," he cautioned.

The blade trembled in the dim lighting. "Why not?"

"Because then I'm going to have to do something we'll both regret and
you won't be any more free and it'll be worse. I want to help you, but I
can't do that if Marcus suspects I'm trying to." He took a step forward.
"Think about it, Al. I'm on your side, here."

Far from soothing Al, the words seemed to make him more agitated and he
froze for several seconds before lunging. Sam pushed himself out of the
path of the knife and, thanks to how weak Al still was, grabbed Al's arm
and twisted it behind his body. Al cried out sharply in pain and Sam
heard the metal handle clatter noisily to the floor. The cry broke Sam's
heart, but he was out of options and out of time. He didn't bother to
voice the apologies rising in his throat; he knew they would all be
rebuffed anyhow.

"Relax," he said tensely. Al was up against the wall, facing the cold
concrete as Sam held both arms behind his back. "Please, Al, I don't
want to hurt you." In desperation, Al continued to fight against him and
he knew there would be no way to get the gauze between Al's skin and the
ropes. "Stop! Al, stop!"

"Let go of me," Al half-commanded, half-pleaded.

"Sam!" Verbena's voice behind him brought forth a flush of relief and
served to counteract the panic rising in his own chest. "Sam, you've got
to calm him down; he's going to hurt himself. He's having another

That much was obvious, but Sam couldn't afford to waste any more time.
He pulled Al's wrists together and tied the rope tightly around them.
Al's breaths turned to gasps and he felt his stomach twist into knots.
"It's okay, Al," he said, trying to keep his voice level. "Everything's
going to be okay - you just have to trust me." Al slid to the floor and
Sam pulled the restraints around his ankles. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
His friend didn't have the energy to respond.

"Sam, there's something else you have to do," Verbena said firmly. She
pointed to a box outside the room.

Sam backed out and peered in to see a set of vials and needles. He
blanched, looking back at Al, whose struggles were dimming, but whose
panic was rising. "You want _me_ to-"

"Al said they were sedatives, Sam," Verbena said quickly. "And you have
to admit, it's for his own good at the moment."

"No!" Sam cried, backing away.

Verbena looked directly into his eyes. "Sam, Al told me to tell you to
do it. There's something he's...remembering that he doesn't want to
remember. You have to, Sam!"

"No, I can't..."

Al cried out in desperation and Sam saw the back of his head make
contact with the wall as his frantic motions took over. The leaper's
eyes were wide, indecision warring on his face.

"Sam... Marcus is back," she said quietly, urgently.

Knowing the man's return would surely lead to more abuse, his hesitation
was wiped away and he snatched a vial and a needle and went into the
room. He grabbed Al's arm, holding it as steadily as he could, and
inserted the needle, slowly pushing the drugs into his friend's system.
The cries subsided and he slipped into a dim stupor. Sam let the needle
slip from his fingers and he ran a hand through Al's hair, mourning as
if he was dead. "Hang in there, Al," he whispered.

He heard the sound of the door opening. Quickly, he wiped his eyes and
grabbed the needle, stepping hurriedly out of the room as Marcus walked
in, locking the door behind himself and pocketing the key. The criminal
looked at the equipment in Sam's hands and nodded approvingly.

"I got the first half of the money," he said triumphantly, tossing Sam a
canvas bag. "Here's your share." He looked at Al, then closed the door.
"Don't want to see that," he remarked. "They're coming tomorrow to get
him for another run through of whatever it is they do, so be up early.
I'm going to sleep down here tonight. I'll see you in the morning."

He walked off and Verbena looked sympathetically at him. "You didn't
have a choice, Sam." She gestured to the closed door. "That man may not
know it, but your friend does."

Sam swallowed and nodded, then climbed the stairs to his room, closing
the door behind him. He focused all his rage on the bag in his hands,
then threw it with all the force he could muster. He slid downwards
against the wall, buried his face in his hands, and tried to forget.

[Yes, still pumping out these parts.  Comments? Complaints? Don't
accept the latter, but the former can be directed to: 
;-) -amkt]