"The Final Chapter" - Prologue

May, 2002
Stallions Gate

  It had been at least a few weeks since the accident and Admiral
Al Calavicci had yet to get a good night's sleep. Either Beth was
waking up in the middle of the night in pain or his own memories
of the incident (both ways it had occurred) plagued him in his
dreams. It had happened mere yards from him when a man with a
knife attacked her while he was inside a cafe having lunch with
Sam and Donna.
  Al rubbed at his temples, trying to erase memories of the
attack on his wife with physical touch. It wasn't working. He and
Sam Beckett had made it a point to explain to all who cared to
listen that they were not pressing charges against the man who
attacked her. What the general public didn't know - what they
would never be informed of - was that it was really a leaper and
there was no reason for the leapee to be any further traumatized
by the experience than he already was.
  Al glanced at his watch and then stood from behind his desk,
straightening a stack of papers and slipping them into a folder.
He crossed into the main living space, where Beth stood.
  "Sam needed me to check out something. Will you be okay for a
  Beth lowered herself onto the couch. "Sure, why?"
  He narrowed one eye at her and shrugged elaborately. "I dunno.
I just kinda felt like there was something wrong."
  "No, I'm fine, but these painkillers are making me exhausted."
She smiled slightly at him. "Go out and play, Al, I'm just going
to take a nap."
  He still looked uncertain. "I'll only be gone an hour or so. "
  "Go. Goodness..." She shook her head and laid down on her right
side, pulling a thin blanket over her legs. "Say hi to Sam for
  Al stopped at the door and retreated back to the couch. "Sure,"
he said, bending to kiss her on the cheek. She took his hand as
he did so, clenching it tightly, and then slowly releasing it.
"See ya."
  The door closed behind him with a dull thud and she sighed. The
moments ticked by and eventually the silence became oppressive.
Why hadn't she told him? If there was one person who knew about
nightmares, it was Al, and she had had her fill in the past
couple of weeks. Knowing now that it was Thames who had tried to
kill her (and indeed, in one time line, had) made it all clear.
She told herself she had suffered too long at his hands and she
would be his victim no longer, but it wasn't working. And why had
she never told Al what he did to her those horrible days in the
other project?
  More than anything, Beth wanted to cry. She wanted to sit there
and let it all pour out from her, but tears wouldn't come, just
fear. Knowing as she did that she would regret it, she let
herself fall into an uneasy sleep.

  Al started to kick the door closed behind him when he
remembered there was a good chance his wife was asleep somewhere
in their quarters. He put down the briefcase and files tucked
under one arm and closed the door slowly as he entered the room.
Leaving his things by the door (an endless source of frustration
for Beth), he crossed the hallway into the living room and smiled
to see her fast asleep on the couch. He started to move past her
into the kitchen, but something stopped him. Maybe it was the way
she was moving in a kind of restlessness on the couch that seemed
painfully familiar. Or maybe it was just a keen knowledge of his
  He altered his path and knelt in front of the couch, studying
her face carefully. Al lifted his hand and softly brushed away a
strand of hair, resting his palm on her cheek. After a moment,
her eyes opened and she smiled at him. He returned it, a little
sadly. The smile faded and she tried to avoid his eyes, but he
simply looked at her, waiting. Then the calm expression seemed to
fold in on itself and her shoulders began to shake beyond her
power to stop them. She bit her lip, fighting for control. He
continued to watch her, rubbing his thumb slowly against her
  Finally, the fear won out, and as she surrendered to the
feelings she's had earlier, Al rose to sit beside her. Gently, he
lifted her to the sitting position, and then leaned her back
until she was laying against his chest. Still not saying a word,
he enveloped her in his arms, stroking her hair and rocking her
tenderly as she sobbed. She twisted in his grasp and buried her
face in his shoulder, the trembling now so fierce that she could
feel her teeth rattling.
  Al held her for a long time, just helping her feel safe. Each
time she seemed calmer the grief and the shame would swell up
inside her chest again, constricting her heart and memories would
flash despite her best efforts. During one of the lulls, she
lifted her head to look at Al and he met her gaze, her sorrow
mirrored in his eyes. His thumb wiped the tears away and she
sniffed, gripping the handkerchief he had long ago handed her.
"I'm - sorry I didn't - tell you," she whispered, spasmatic
breathing making speech harder. Her voice rose as she fought a
fresh wave. "But it just - hurt so bad and-"
  She hadn't told him anything, hadn't even spoken until now, but
he just brushed her hair back and kissed her on her forehead.
"Shhh. Just cry, baby, just cry." She let the assault overtake
her, not even aware of the point when Al pulled the blanket up
around her shoulders and tightened his grip on her. Her arm was
causing no pain, but whether it was because of the painkillers or
the fact that it was merely overshadowed by a much stronger
emotional pain, she wasn't sure.
  After a while, all she was aware of was the even beating of his
heart and the rise and fall of his chest. Every time she
whimpered or even cried out aloud, and every time the horrible
reality of flashbacks overcame her own sense of reality, she
could feel him hold her tighter, as if he could cover every inch
of her body with his touch. As if he could make it all better
again, heal her wounds himself.
  She wasn't aware of how much time had gone by, but it was dark
outside before she found the voice and the strength to tell him
about her first encounter with Thames. She told him how the man
had hurt her, physically and emotionally, and her fear that he
would try again to kill her, even her fear that he would leap
into Al and she would never know until her life was over. Al
listened silently as she poured out all her agonies, nestled
safely in his grasp, and she sighed.
  He rested his chin atop her head and started to hum, a
tuneless, motionless song that drifted through the room. Her
fingertips slid upward to the side of his neck and she could feel
the vibrations from his throat. For the first time in weeks, she
felt warm and safe and she fell deep into a dreamless sleep.