"Off the Beaten Path" - Epilogue

May, 1988
Nant, NC

  Sam had dedicated the afternoon to hunting out Al Calavicci. He
had some forms he needed signed and, besides, he wanted to
formally introduce himself to the man who had given him his first
real shot at easing towards what he really wanted to do. The
problem was, every time he seemed to be free, Calavicci's office
was empty.
  Finally, as a last ditch effort before he left for the day, he
asked a clerk on the way from his final trip to the admiral's
  "Admiral Calavicci?" the clerk said. "Oh, yeah, he's back in
the building. I saw him headed down to the basement. Worked
through lunch and probably needs a sugar fix from the vending
machines." The young man wrinkled his nose. "I'd never touch the
stuff that comes outta those contraptions myself."
  Sam thanked the young man and followed his directions to the
elevator and then the lower levels. The admiral had to have been
hungry - it was practically evening. It was apparent that these
rooms were used primarily for storage. Very few people were
roaming the halls. Sam asked one of them where the vending
machines were and then headed towards them.
  As he neared the location, Sam heard what sounded like
muttering and then a yelled curse. The young man stopped in his
tracks, wondering if this was something he should wait on. The
papers he held out in front of himself in anticipation, clenched
in a tight fist, lowered slowly to his side. The sound of someone
whacking a hard surface with the palm of a hand reached him and
he started walking again, slower this time.
  As he rounded the corner, he could see a man at the end of a long hall,
searching a room diligently. Sam wondered what he was looking for. As the
scientist advanced on his position, the small man's expression
lit up, as if he had finally located the item he was seeking.
  Sam barely had time to let out a cry of alarm as the man swung
around on his heel and crashed the object straight through the
face of the machine. The object was, Sam noted at second glance,
a hammer. Sparks flew everywhere and shards of glass littered the
floor like a prey spilling blood at its predator's feet.
  "Hey!" Sam yelled and broke into a run.
  "Stupid machine!" the man yelled and lifted the hammer again,
bringing it down from above this time. He didn't even notice
Sam's arrival into the small room.
  Sam reflected on his position. The hammer to the vending
machine action was obviously a much-needed release and the
machine itself was no longer to be saved anyhow. He slipped over
onto the other side of the warrior and unplugged it. The
few remaining lights fizzled to darkness, but still the man didn't
seem to care. He swung again and again until sheer exhaustion led
him to stop. All the while, Sam watched him quietly from behind;
he could almost _feel_ the anguish fighting to get out. And,
still, the release didn't seem to be fulfilling that need. Sam couldn't
help but wonder if it was because he needed a different type of release.
  It was when he uttered a sound somewhere between a gasp and a
whimper and leaned forward unsteadily that Sam moved to him.
  "Okay," he said as calmly as he could. "Trust me, the machine's
had enough." He reached for the hammer dangling from his companion's hand,
which was his first mistake.
  "Let go!" When Sam didn't immediately respond, the man pushed
him away roughly, causing him to stagger into the wall. "Dammit,
I said let go of me!"
  Sam looked carefully at his face. Olive skin, dark, curly hair
tamed with a military haircut, deep, black eyes... There was no
doubt in Sam's mind that he'd found the person he was looking
for. There was also no mistaking the smell of alcohol on his
  The admiral teetered again and then reached out to catch
himself. Unfortunately, the shattered mass of wires and glass was
the closest thing to him and he grabbed for it. Sam watched the
jagged corners slice into the admiral's left hand with more than
just a mental wince. Calavicci didn't even appear to notice.
  Sam grabbed for the weapon again. "Admiral, give me the
hammer." He tugged at it for a moment and then Calavicci
surrendered it reluctantly. Sam laid it carefully on the floor,
then tried to take his other hand to examine the damage.
Immediately, the admiral pulled away.
  "Get away from me," he said angrily. Sam was still not sure if
the man was really seeing him or not. "Go away! Leave me alone."
  "You're hurt. I'm a doctor. Let me look at your hand," Sam said
sharply. Blood was starting to stain the cuff of his shirt.
  "Why should you care?" he demanded.
  "Because," Sam returned, still keeping his distance, but
looking for an opportunity, "if you stop caring you may as well
be dead."
  The admiral leaned against the wall and slid slowly to the
floor. "I tried to care - I really did." He moved forward, as if
to bury his face in his hands, and then stared at his left palm
as if he'd never seen blood before.
  *The man is a wreck,* Sam thought sorrowfully to himself.
*Isn't there anyone to make sure he's okay?*
  Sam knelt down beside him. "Let me see your hand. I want to
  Numbly, the admiral offered Sam a look at it, the fight finally
draining out of him. Even so, he was eyeing Sam with the deep
suspicion of a wounded animal.
  "Admiral Calavicci, right?" Sam asked as he pressed his
handkerchief to the man's palm.
  "So?" he demanded defiantly, as if he expected a challenge at
every turn.
  "Why don't you let me drive you home?"
  "I don't need to be babysat," he snapped, snatching his hand
back and cradling it against his chest. "Who the hell're you?"
  "Dr. Sam Beckett," Sam replied offering his hand. It seemed a
tad ridiculous under the circumstances, but he couldn't think what else to
do. He wasn't entirely surprised when his companion refused to respond in
kind. "Let me drive you home," he repeated. "Where do you live?"
  "I don't need your charity."
  *I'm not so sure.* "Is it far?" Sam persisted.
  Calavicci hesitated. "No."
  "Then let me take you home, Admiral. It's getting late." He
glanced up into the admiral's eyes and was surprised to see them
glistening with unshed tears.
  Sam shrugged and watched him struggle to his feet. He fought
not to offer a helping hand. "Humor me."
  The admiral snickered. "Well, lookie here. It's the original
Boy Scout."
  Sam winced, but didn't respond as he followed the admiral back
to the elevator. They rode up in silence. Sam was going to have
the older man wait while he brought the car around, but then
thought twice about that. He wasn't so sure it was a good idea
for the admiral to be out in the lobby area in the condition he
was in by himself. In fact, he figured it wasn't such a good idea
to be near _anyplace_ where the walls had ears.
  "I parked in the lower level. Can you get there?"
  He glared. "I just cut my hand; I didn't break my hip."

  The drive back proceeded mostly in silence, broken only by the
sporadic directions the admiral was offering and the medical
questions Sam was asking regarding his hand. The small glimpse
Sam'd had told him that he might be able to get away without
stitches, but he knew he needed a longer look at it before he could
accurately make that determination.
  When they got to the house, Sam got out with him without being
told and without asking if it was all right. The house itself was
a nice, two story brick home. It was the stuff storybooks were
made of - a window box on all the downstairs levels, a garden out
front that seemed to consist largely of calla lilies, and a small
front porch. There was a note taped to the door.
  "Took the girls out to shop for summer clothes. Won't be back
until after dinner. -Beth"
  Calavicci read it silently, tore it off the door, and unlocked
it. He made it all the way back to the kitchen with a purposeful stride,
Sam trailing him the entire way. He seemed to know Sam was there, but
didn't ask him to leave.
  "You see that?" he demanded suddenly, looking at the stove.
  Sam was confused. "What?"
  "That," he said in a tone that indicated the problem should be
obvious. He took a step closer and pointed. "The light over the
stove is on."
  Sam shrugged.
  The admiral walked next to the stove. "Beth, my wife, she
leaves it on when I'm out late." His voice became softer as he
went on. "She told me once...that she left it on for the entire
six years I was in Vietnam." Sam swallowed. "I'm supposed to turn
it off when I get in, but I haven't for the past two months."
  "Why not?" Sam's voice was equally quiet.
  "I dunno, I...never really felt like I was home again. I keep
waiting for her to give up and turn it off, but she never does."
  Sam watched him carefully. He could see the layers of hurt and
the barriers of protection within the man. "Why don't you turn it
off?" he suggested slowly. His wife was obviously a patient person, but it
didn't seem to be enough for him right now. In fact, it only seemed to
make him more frustrated.
  His companion hesitated. "No..."
  "Do you want me to do it?"
  "No," he said, but the answer came even slower this time. Sam
was bound and determined that, before he left the house, that
light would be off. It would be a small victory, anyhow. 
  Thinking furiously, Sam shoved his hands in his pockets and
felt something cool touch his right hand. At first, a puzzled
expression crossed his face, and then realization hit. "AJC &
EMC," the ring had said. Smiling, he pulled it out. "Someone gave
me this earlier...I guess maybe he found it or whatever."
Sam held out the ring. "He said to tell you...to let it remind
you, and that the rest would fall into place from there." He
shrugged as if he couldn't make sense of that statement when, in
reality, he suspected the stranger knew this man better than he
himself did.
  The admiral took the small ring of gold carefully, as if afraid
it would turn to dust at his touch. Sam wanted to urge him to put
it on, but he had the feeling that to push at this moment would
have more of a negative effect than a positive on. Instead, he just
watched the man finger it, watched him read the inscription over and
over. "I thought...I mean, I'd already lost the first one in that hell
hole. I tried to tell myself that losing the second wouldn't be
any more of a..." He trailed off again and Sam frowned, trying to
keep up with his companion's train of thought. Closing his eyes,
as if afraid it would hurt, the admiral finally slid the ring on
and then let out a long breath.
  Sam could tell by the silence he let hang there that Calavicci
seemed uncomfortable with where he had taken the conversation, so
Sam changed the topic temporarily to medical matters. "Why don't
we rinse that cut out?"
  The admiral just glared at him. "I'll be fine, Doctor."
  "Sam," he corrected, trying to nudge the man in the direction
of the sink. "I've never been all that formal."
  Calavicci stared at him for a moment. "My friends call me Al,"
he told him, then reached to turn on the tap.
  Sam turned that one over in his mind, trying to decide if it was
an invitation or not. Then, with a small smile, he said, "Nice to meet
you, Al," and moved to study the damage.

+And that's it! Thanks again for all the wonderfully kind comments you
guys have sent me this story. I have another one finished and, as always,
after it undergoes some editing, it'll be out. It's called "Basis of
Control". Hopefully I can start getting those parts out by July. Thanks