"Pieces" pt. IV

May, 2002
Stallion's Gate, NM

  "Dr. Beckett?"
  Sam laid down the sheaf of papers he had been fighting his way through
and watched them spill across his desk with an odd sense of satisfaction,
thoroughly grateful for the interruption. Paperwork was usually something
Al handled with well honed skill, but, for once in his life, he had come
across something he couldn't handle while pushing on with everyday life.
When he wasn't at the hospital, he was asleep. And that wasn't very
often. It wasn't for lack of trying, of course. There had been a dozen
times at least when Sam had found Al asleep at his desk and had sent him
off to bed, only to find him back there and hour later. Two weeks had
passed and there was no change in Beth's condition one way or the other,
but for each night she lived through, her odds of surviving went up a
notch. Even so, she still hadn't regained consciousness and every night
she went through pushed her deeper and deeper into the coma she had
slipped into.
  Sam remembered the conversation they had had with Dr. Grahm a couple
nights ago about that very problem. It had involved a fair amount of
yelling and emotional strain, as he recalled, when the doctor had asked
Al when he was going to turn off the machines and let her die in peace.
Oh, he didn't say it in so many words, but the thought was there and Sam
knew he would never forget the look in Al's eyes at the notion. It was
the face of a man realizing the magnitude of what he was being told and
denying it in the same instant. Sam honestly believed the possibility
hadn't even occurred to him prior to that moment. In a way, he could
understand that; he wasn't sure how much better he could have reacted had
it been him in that situation.
  Sam took a moment to erase the memories from his mind, covering his
anxiety by stretching cramped muscles. It felt so good that he took the
liberty of rubbing the back of his neck before replying to the computer,
who added an exasperated sigh for good measure, just to make sure he knew
she was still waiting for him to acknowledge her. "Yes, Ziggy?"
  She was silent for a moment, just to return the favor. "I just thought
I should notify you of something."
  She hummed at him a moment more. "What?" he demanded, faintly
  "There is someone in the Waiting Room," she said sullenly.
  Sam groaned. "Oh, what, is the janitor kicking up too much dust again?"
He was not usually prone to fits of sarcasm, but the last couple of weeks
had been hard on them all.
  "Not unless we're in the habit of hiring leapees," she returned with
equal irritation.
  He stood suddenly and fumbled incoherantly for an instant. Finally, he
coughed up a phrase. "In the Waiting Room?" seemed to be the best he
could come up with.
  "Yes, Dr. Beckett. The Wai-ting Ro-om," she clarified in a sultry pout.
  "Where's Al?" he demanded, numb with regret. If Al had leaped....
  "Oh, Admiral Calavicci?"
  "Ziggy, answer the damn question!" Sam pounded a fist on the desk.
  "In his office."
  "You sure?"
  "Doctor, I don't make mistakes." Sam rolled his eyes. "I don't," she
insisted. "Miscalculations, but not mistakes."
  "What's the difference?"
  Sam sighed, partly in frusturation, partly in relief. "Well, have him
meet me there, now!" Driven by curiosity and a still-remaining sense of
dread, he went down two levels and entered the Waiting Room. A young
woman, about 24 or 25 sat on the table in the center of the room. She had
petite figure with a strong Oriental influence in her features that gave
her a delicate appearance. Her deep set dark eyes looked at him,
completely startled, and he realized he had never seen her before. At the
moment, her eyes said the very same thing about him and she stood
quickly, putting the table between them. Sam barely opened his mouth when
the door slid open behind him and Verbena entered.
  He heard the gasp that escaped her. "Melana?" She pushed past him.
"Melana? Is that you?"
  "Wha-what?" She shrank from the psychiatrist's open hand and glanced
between them with a trapped look in her deep black eyes. The panic they
held reminded him vaguely of Al when he had found him with Beth and he
closed his eyes against the memory.
  The door opened again and this time Al rushed in, rubbing his eyes and
breathing hard. "Beeks?"
  Verbena looked up from the woman to him and shook her head. "It's not
her," she said.
  "Yeah. I can see that." He sighed and passed a hand over his face.
"Well, we never expected this one. Tell Ziggy to work the cobwebs outta
the Imaging Chamber, willya?"
  "Al, she's scared. Can you do that? I want to stay with her a few
  "Al, what-" Sam began, but Al cut him off with a wave of his hand.
  "Let me make sure she's okay, first, alright Sam? Then I promise...I'll
explain everything."
  "Since when was there another leaper, Al?"
  He looked back angrily. "Sam, _later_!" He left as quickly as he had
come and Sam felt the tension in the room relax a little.
  He spoke without turning to face Verbena. "What's going on here?"
  "I think I had better let Al tell you that himself."
  "He's closing me off, Verbena," Sam said quietly. "He's not letting me
help, he's not letting me be there.... He's just shutting me out from
everything." He turned slowly, suddenly recalling the other person in the
  Verbena was sitting on the table next to the frightened woman, holding
onto her as she fought to deny what her eyes were telling her. Feeling
suddenly conspicuous and intrusive, Sam clamped his mouth shut and
stepped back, swallowing the apology that lingered in his throat. He
might as well have been the person on the table for the lost feeling that
swelled up inside of him. He stood, transfixed, as Verbena comforted and
quieted the visitor, at the same time gently drawing information from her
without her entirely realizing it was being done. Dr. Beeks navigated her
way around the holes with practiced ease and for the first time Sam
understood what was being done on this end every time he had leaped. It
made him somehow uneasy.
  The minutes ticked by and finally the psychiatrist glanced up at the
ceiling, despite the fact that it made no difference where she looked, as
if to assure herself that Ziggy had been paying attention. "Okay, Amy, I
need to go talk to someone else for a minute. Are you going to be
  Amy nodded slowly. "Yes ma'am."
  "Good. Why don't you get some rest?" They waited until she laid down
and then Verbena gestured to Sam and he followed her out, feeling humbled
by the experience. "Sam...come up to the Control Room with me."
  Sam sighed, but fell into step beside her. "Verbena, I just feel awful.
I don't know what to do." She remained silent and Sam immediately
recognized a well-known, age old psychiatric ploy. He walked into it
anyway. "I feel so helpless. Donna and I have been snapping at each other
all week, and... I just can't help him, I can't do anything!"
  "And how do you think Al feels?"
  That startled Sam and he stopped to face her. "What do you mean?"
  She smiled gently at him. "Sam, for five years you were put into
situations where you could help others. They would not always be quick to
accept your assistance, but you could always _do_ something. Did it ever
occur to you that Al feels the same way you do? Helpless? He can't do
anything - he can just wait. But he's always been better at that than
you," she added thoughtfully. "He's had more practice at it."
  Sam stood silently, her words running through his mind. He called up
the flawless image of the look in Al's eyes as he sat beside her bed so
many times, his lips moving in formless patterns as if he was
unconsciously reciting some senseless mantra. In his mind, he saw the
worry plainly set in his features, but no trace of impatience or
frusturation. "I don't know," he said finally.
  "Sam." Her voice called him back to the present and he re-focused on
her face. "Trust me, Sam. Five years waiting for you and endless years of
it before that....not only is he good at it, but it'll never show."
  Sam admitted to himself that her words were probably true.
  "Come on." She tugged at his arm and they resumed their walk. "He knows
you're trying, though," she reminded him.
  "Yeah." They got in the elevator and Sam waited for the doors to close
before speaking again. "So what's the deal with this other leaper?
  "Melana," she corrected automatically.
  "Right. Her. And why did nobody tell me about her?!"
  Verbena laid a hand on his arm. "I told you, Al will explain all that.
You're just going to have to cut him some slack, okay? He was relatively
close to her, too." Verbena smiled fondly and a mist came over her eyes
as she immersed herself in her own memories. "Her parents were from China
and were pretty deep-rooted in tradition, but she's 100% American, much
to their frustration," she said with a small laugh. "Brilliant woman. You
should see her and Sammy Jo go at it. Anyway, her parents died when she
was 16 - car wreck. She didn't come onto the project until after you had
leaped. Not very long after, in fact, but I knew her from before. In
fact, I all but brought her on and Al, well, he kind of adopted her and,
in a sense, she adopted him. Actually, I'm kind of surprised he never
mentioned her to you before."
  Sam made a face. "Well, not that I remember," he said dryly.
  "Well, I guess the retrieval program will end up with another test
  "Looks that way. Did you figure out where and when she was?"
  "Somewhere in Connecticut, 1979." The elevator door opened and they
exited without continuting the conversation. Gooshie was back up there,
but Tina was absent. Sam couldn't remember if this was the week she had
her seminar in Omaha or if it was the following week.
  Verbena leaned on a console. "Did we find her?"
  "Affirmative, Dr. Beeks," Ziggy answered. "And she appears to be in
good health."
  Sam sighed and sat down in a nearby chair, waiting for the explanation
he so dearly wanted.