"Pieces" pt. I

April, 2002
Santa Fe, NM

  It was an unusually mild day in New Mexico. A light breeze helped to
offset the desert heat that beat down on the generous sized city of Santa
Fe. The "company" as Al had taken to calling them all sat inside an
over-cooled cafe enjoying what he hoped would actually prove to be a
break for them all. The project was up and in full swing, although
experimentation had not passed general stages. Once cheaper power sources
began to emerge from their team of experts, it was just a matter of
improving on Sam's theory to, perhaps, leap beyond the confines of a
life. It was the alternate resivoir of energy that had thus far stumped
the project personnel. The success of the retrieval program had seemed to
be the only major victory they had overcome within the last year. The
break for dinner was something Sam had insisted on; they had all been
working a little too hard lately and some time to blow off steam was a
  "You don't know how to relax," Al Calavicci stated matter-of-factly.
  Sam glanced up at him, pen poised over the napkin he was scribbling
unintelligible equations on. "I was just trying something. I know this
was my idea, but we need something to show for all this time and work
before the new committee starts getting antsy."
  "I told you before, let me worry about them." Sam shook his head and
turned back to his scribble. "Sam, do you _have_ to?"
  Sam set the pencil down with a snap and reached for his glass. "Why, do
you have any ideas?"
  "Try a gerbil."
  Sam paused in the middle of sipping his drink and then lowered it
slowly. "What?"
  Beth giggled, but Al ignored her. "A gerbil. You know, in one of those
little wheels?"
  "As a _power_ source?" Sam groaned in mock despair.
  "Five million gerbils, maybe," Donna put in.
  Al shrugged, still pretending to be dead serious. "Well, just in case
Sammy Jo's theory doesn't pan out."
  Something resembling pride gleamed in Sam's eyes. "It'll work," he
assured them. Since he had returned home, the truth had been revealed to
both Donna and Sammy Jo about her father which had led to several
outbursts and a few hollow threats directed at both Sam and Al for
keeping the information a secret, but things in that area were finally
starting to settle down.
  Beth, usually the quietest and most passive one in the group, took the
momentary silence as an opportunity. "Sam? I have some blueprints I'd
like you to look at for the expansion of the infirmary. I know we came
here for dinner but..."
  Al groaned and rolled his eyes, only partly for show. "I don't recall
this being a business meeting, honey," he repremanded gently.
  "I'll only take a moment. They're out in the car."
  Sam grinned and nodded. Al and Donna exchanged a look and Beth cast
them an expression of innocence before getting up from the table. "Yeah,
okay. Sure."
  Al made the premise of kicking him under the table. "Whaddyou been
running off on her or what? She's brought home work the last three
nights. Of course, I had to distract her..."
  Sam took another sip of his drink. "Uh-huh. She just brought work home
because the two of you are having a fight."
  His companion looked up in surprise, almost dropping the cigar he was
holding. "How did you know?"
  "It's written on your forehead," Sam answered, deadpan.
  Donna watched the exchange and took her cue. "I'll be in the ladies
room," she said and gave a kiss before departing.
  "Am I that transparant?"
  Sam smiled, but didn't answer. "You knew this wasn't going to be easy,
  "I didn't get into it on a quest for 'easy'. I knew it'd take time. And
work." He sighed. "And time." Al twirled a straw in his lemonade. "But,
yeah, we've hit a few rough spots recently. I guess it's me."
  "Because it always is," he replied with a self-depreciating grin.
"Let's just say I've made a trend of it the other four, well, five
  "She's not perfect, Al."
  "Sure, but she's always right and I'll be damned if I know what that
makes her."
  Sam sighed. "Not perfect," he insisted. "Do you want to tell me what's
really going on?"
  "Oh, I'm just feeling a little smothered. You know, it's been a while
since I've been married." He paused and looked up into Sam's fond gaze
and laughed. "I think I'm talking to the wrong person, here."
  A short internal debate whether to be amused or annoyed went on inside
Sam until he saw the gleam of regret in Al's eyes. It was his own fault
he was apart from his own wife for so long, but it was still a sore spot
for both of them. "Maybe," he conceded. "You'll work it out, Al."
  "Yeah," he said without conviction. It wasn't often Al sounded
defeated, but Sam couldn't think of how else to describe it. Al glanced
towards the door. "Where is she, anyhow?"
  Sam laughed at that. "Almost seems like you _want_ to be smothered."
  "Some ways more than others," he replied, but he was too busy looking
for Beth to put much effort into his words.
  "You're terrible," he muttered. Donna returned and slid back into the
booth beside Sam, reaching instinctively for his hand. Al watched her
actions and reflected on the fact that if anyone should be feeling
smothered, it was Sam. Donna had been his constant companion almost every
minute since his return, but he didn't seem to mind.
  "Maybe," he replied. "I'm still gonna go make sure she's got everything
  Sam shook his head and turned his attentions to Donna.
  The sun was just fading from the sky in a brilliant display of colors
when Al exited the restaruant. He paused a moment, contemplating what Sam
had said and trying to ignore the nagging voice that maintained that he
had only left because he was starting to feel distinctly uncomfortable
under Sam's scrutiny. Their car was right around the corner, just out of
sight and he started to head in that direction, but a call from behind
brought him up short.
  He turned to see a young woman, probably early to mid twenties in jeans
and a sweater, panting heavily as if she had just run a marathon. She had
an unnaturally pale look and he thought she was going to be sick right in
front of him. "Are you alright?" he asked, startled and concerned.
  She leaned forward, resting her hands on her knees to catch her breath.
"I need your help," she gasped out.
  He glanced at the alley she had shot from, half expecting to see
someone pursuing her. "What's wrong?"
  "In the alley....there's someone....with a knife and-"
  "A _knife_?" Al drew back, confused. "Wait here," he commanded, resting
a hand briefly on her back and then without even pausing to worry about
what he would find, he ran for the alley. He heard the faint sound of her
slower steps under his own from behind, but didn't stop to send her back
to the parking lot. He rounded the corner and stopped short at the sight.
"Hey!" he shouted.
  At the sound of his voice, the assialant turned around and ran the
other way. Then Al understood: the woman was asking for help for someone
else, not herself. A figure in the middle of the street, about one
hundred yards from them, swayed and then fell to her side on the hard
pavement. Al turned to the woman next to him. "Go inside the 200 Street
Cafe and get a Dr. Sam Beckett," he instructed her. "Do you understand?
  "Dr. Beckett," she murmured for confirmation and pulled some strength
from an untapped source and took off at a full run.
  As he neared the victim, some portion of his mind recognized the white
sweater, now soiled, and he fell on his knees on the pavement with and
involuntary cry ripped from his throat. "Please, no, _please_." He
touched her face and called her name, but she didn't move. Hesitantly,
afraid to move her, he lifted her head onto his lap and watched the blood
roll in thin rivulets along her hand, still clutched to her chest. It was
bad. "Oh, no...." He brushed her hair off her face and saw her eyelids
flutter slightly at the touch. "Beth? Beth, honey, can you hear me?" She
groaned softly and he felt his insides twist into knots of dread. "Come
on, Sam, come on," he muttered through gritted teeth. Beth started to
struggle feebly in his grasp and he laid a hand on her's to keep her
still. "Don't move, sweetie, don't move."
  Her face and neck were covered in a cold sweat and the red of blood
stood out against pale skin. The hand pressed down on her stomach started
to tremble and she opened her eyes once, briefly. They were glazed and
shadowed and then they closed again.
  The admiral half-turned at the call and only then noticed the trembling
of his hands. "Sam! Help me!" he cried out.
  "Oh, God," Sam breathed as he knelt down to examine her. The woman was
with him, but Donna was absent,. Al didn't notice. "What happened?"
  "I don't know," Al said in pained tones. "Dammit, I don't know."
  Sam unbuttoned her blouse and Al flinched, turning away with a sick
feeling sliding through him. "Sam?" Donna said suddenly out of nowhere,
touching her husband on the shoulder.
  "Did you call the ambulance?" he asked tartly, only devoting a portion
of his attention to what she was saying.
  "Yes," she said with forced calmness and a twinge of repressed
irritation. "What do you need?"
  "Uh..." Sam moved Beth's hand and she screamed and started to thrash
against them. "Al! Keep her quiet!" Sam snapped in a tone Al couldn't
recall ever hearing him use before. The admiral grasped at the flailing
hand and held her tightly, pressing his lips to her forehead partly to
offer comfort and partly to avoid looking at the damage. "Um...get me
some towels and some hot water for starters."
  Al closed his eyes tightly and pressed her hand to his chest. *Hang
  Beth's cries finally eased, but her breathing was erratic and ragged.
Al swallowed hard. "Sam? Sam, please don't let her die." He looked up at
his friend, but Sam was too intent on what he was doing to notice or
respond. "How bad is it?" he rasped.
  "Too much blood. Can't tell," Sam replied tightly. There was a pause.
"But I think she may have gotten it in the heart."
  Silence descended and settled around them; Al could feel its pressure
on his shoulders. "Will she make it?"
  "Probably not if she it got her heart," he replied without inflection.
"Here. Put your hand right there," Sam instructed and moved his hand,
forcing him to release his grip on Beth. "Now don't move." Al flinched at
the slick feel of blood.
  "Here." Donna's breathless voice came from somewhere Al didn't exist
anymore and he felt Sam lift his hand, put a towel under it, and push it
back down.
  "Al?" Al straightened at the sound of her voice, just enough to look at
her eyes.
  "What is it, honey?" he asked in a choked voice.
  Her other hand came up and stroked the side of his face. "You came
home," she whispered, amazed. Her voice sounded rough and unsteady and
her words were punctuated with slight gasps. He could barely make out
what she was saying.
  Her eyes closed briefly and then opened again. "You were gone so long.
I was so afraid...something would happen..."
  He swallowed. "Yeah. I came home."
  "Oh, I'm so glad." She smiled weakly at him. The rest of the commotion
around them dropped away and he was no longer aware of Sam or Donna or
the woman who had found him. It had all ceased to matter. "I'm so happy
you're home. I waited so long for you."
  He brushed her neck with his fingers. "I know you did, sweetie. I don't
know what I'd do if you hadn't."
  She nodded as if he had just confirmed something for her. "I love you,"
she murmured between barely parted lips and her hand fell from his face
back onto the cold pavement.
  The distant sound of sirens echoed Al's cry.