"Pieces" pt. IX

June, 1979
Hartford, CT

  Melana stood outside "her" daughter's door, hand poised in mid
air, hesitating. The instant Julie got home, she rushed upstairs
and locked herself in her room. She hadn't exactly been crying,
but she was definitely upset and Melana was certain it had
something to do with what was going to happen. She wished Al were
there to provide council, but no-one had shown up since Sam the
night before. She bit her lip and knocked on the door.
  "Julie? Are you okay?" Melana had spoken with the girl the
night before and they'd actually had a pleasant conversation.
Today was a different story.
  "What?" Melana definitely heard tears, barely audible through
the door.
  "Can I talk to you for a minute?"
  There was a pause and then, slowly, the door opened. Julie
peered through the sliver of a crack she had opened the door, a
faintly suspicious sheen in her eyes. "What?" she repeated and
Melana pushed back a sigh.
  "I just want to -talk to you. Can I please come in?" The young
woman eyed her a moment longer and then pulled the door the rest
of the way open. "Thank you. Is there something wrong?"
  "No." Julie crossed the room and sat down on her bed, folding
her legs underneath her.
  This time, the sigh did escape and Melana moved to sit in the
chair nearby. A hundred different responses to the lie sifted
through her mind, but she remained silent for a moment longer,
waiting to see if Julie would provide her own information. She
didn't. "Well, how is your summer going?"
  "Everything going alright with the boyfriend?" she asked,
remembering her younger brother's earlier proclamation that Julie
was out all day "doing gross stuff with Greg".
  "He's fine."
  "Well...good." They sat in an awkward silence and then the
distinct sound of the Imaging Chamber door opened from behind
her. "I'm going to go fix dinner. You know where to find me if
you want to talk," she said, offering a smile before departing.
Julie just nodded, never once removing her gaze from her hands
clasped in her lap.
  She closed the door carefully behind her and turned to eye both
men. The look Sam levelled at her warned her not to ask the
question that rested on the edge of her concern. She smiled wanly
instead. "A two for one deal?" she asked.
  The corner of Sam's mouth lifted in faint acknowledgement of
the joke. "We have to talk with you, Melana," he said cautiously.
Al remained silent, almost a background noise just on the edge of
her vision. But he carefully avoided her eyes.
  "No problem," she said automatically, covering her anxiety with
a sigh. "I was just...going down to fix dinner." She hesitated,
trying to meet Al's gaze, then turned and trotted down the
  "Melana," Sam began, with a sidelong glance at his partner, "we
tried to retrieve you, but we couldn't. You are too far back.
And...the odds of retrieval are dropping as we speak."
  She pursed her lips and swallowed. "So what can I do?"
  Sam cleared his throat, trying to draw Al out of whatever
thoughts he had lost himself in. Al glanced up and immediately,
his expression cleared and he even managed a small smile. "We
just need you to concentrate on this leap, sweetie," the admiral
said urgently. "Once you leap close enough home, we can get you
back, but you've just got to focus."
  She stared steadily at the two of them, trying to discern
whatever code had passed by her defenses undetected. Sam and Al
had both agreed prior to entering the Imaging Chamber that it
would be best not to tell her the specifics of the problem. The
moment they told her the specifics of the problem, the harder it
would undoubtedly be _not_ to think about what happened to her.
"Okay," she said finally. "So does Ziggy have anything else on
what I'm supposed to do then?"
  "Yeah, well, she's got some more information, anyhow. She
pulled up a police report about the incident and the boyfriend,
Greg, was accused and then convicted for Julie's murder. The
entire time he maintained his innocence, but Ziggy gives it a 87%
chance that he's the one you've got to watch out for. If you can
nail him abusing her beforehand, maybe you can stop this before
anything more concrete happens. It's tonight that she ends up
back in the hospital with the sprained wrist."
  "Back in the hospital?" Melana repeated, a puzzled look on her
  Sam gestured to the handlink. "Well, Ziggy says that she's been
in there a couple of times before for minor things since she's
been seeing Greg. That's probably how she knows what's going on
  "She didn't mention going out tonight," she said, half to
herself. "But then again, I'm sorta new here. I don't really know
the ropes."
  As if on cue, Julie trotted into the room, snatched up a
cookie, and stared steadily at her mother. "I'm going out
  "Whatever happened to asking permission?" Melana countered
sourly. The girl's attitude was starting to rub off on her.
  "Do you need me home?"
  Melana cast a desperate glance at Al, but he seemed too
preoccupied to offer assistance. "No. Where are you going?"
  She broke off a piece of the cookie and shrugged. "I don't
know. Someplace with Greg."
  "She could bring him here," Sam suggested.
  Al shot him a disgusted look. "Her monster wouldn't come and if
she's covering for him, why would she want to bring him here?"
Sam recoiled slightly, but didn't respond.
  "Why don't you two come over here tonight?" Melana asked,
figuring it couldn't hurt.
  Julie looked up sharply, first with a suspicious air, and then
she relaxed visibly. "Could we have the family room to
ourselves?" she asked carefully. Al shrugged.
  Melana paused. "For most of the night. Deal?"
  For the first time ever, Julie smiled a genuine smile. "Deal."

May, 2002
Stallions Gate, NM

  "Did you see the look in her eyes, Sam? She's remembering." Al
perched on the desk top, his expression anguished.
  He was very tempted to ask what exactly she was remembering,
but he refrained. Ever since they'd left the Imaging Chamber, Al
had seemed a little more at ease with himself and Sam and the
scientist didn't want to do anything that would impede on his
newfound peace. "Do you think there's any way we can get her to
leap earlier?" he asked, taking the seat next to the desk.
  "Yeah, we can try the blunt, direct approach," Al responded
sourly, pulling out a cigar.
  "Meaning Melana can get that slime of a boyfriend put in
  Sam absently slid the ashtray over next to Al. "Not without
  "So she makes something up."
  "Yeah, and then when Amy leaps back in she's up a creek without
a paddle. I don't think that'd work, Al."
  Al waved the cigar around in a circle emphatically. "So let's
pull out the scales, shall we, Sam? Either we lose Melana again
or there's a little confusion in court."
  "Okay," Sam conceded. "I see your point, but let's just say
that you're right. Let's say that she does accuse Greg and it
doesn't work for whatever reason. Then Melana would have to stay
in there a lot longer to put that wrong right."
  Al shook his head and stared at the cigar in his hand. "I see
what you mean," he said quietly. "I just wish there was something
I could do about this."
  Sam gazed up at him. "Why don't you go and get some rest? I'll
let you know if anything happens."
  He seemed about to protest, but then relented at the last
instant. "Yeah, okay. Just promise me you'll keep running
scenarios." Al reached up to run a hand through his hair and
that's when Sam saw it. His tie was pulled down and the top
button of his shirt was undone. When he moved his arm, the collar
shifted slightly and Sam's eyes were immediately drawn to the
patch of white. Startled and swallowing back an unexpected wave
of anger, he pulled back Al's collar without hesitation.
  "You're wearing a Fermi suit!" he exclaimed in dismayed tones.
  A guilty expression crossed his friend's face, but he didn't
  "How did you get it, Al? I had them all locked up a week ago."
  Al hesitated and then dropped his hand with a heavy sigh. "I've
been wearing it for the past two weeks," he confessed.
  Sam drew back a half-step. "Every day?" he demanded. Al nodded
slowly. "How could you?" He pushed past the admiral and sat
heavily in a chair.
  "I knew she was dying. And I knew she wasn't going to make it.
Even so, for two weeks I hoped and..." he trailed off, glancing
sideways at Sam.
  Sam eyed him carefully. "Prayed?" he asked.
  "A little," Al admitted slowly. "Sam, would you have done any
less? You were ready to leap before and you're not married
-weren't married to her. Did you really think...." He shook his
head and looked down at the floor, focusing all of his attention
on anywhere but the present. "Do you really think I could offer
any less?"
  Sam closed his eyes, retreating when he realized just how much
truth Al's words carried with them. "So what are you going to do
  Al swallowed harshly, fingering the tip of his tie with
exaggerated interest. "I can't make any promises, Sam."
  "You said that last time. Well, dammit, I want promises! Do I
have to be worrying about you every waking moment, too?"
  Had he had more energy, Al probably would have become angry at
that comment, but he just shook his head slowly, avoiding a
verbal response.
  "I want it on my desk in an hour, Al. An hour!" Sam's voice
rose shrilly and Al winced.
  "Okay, Sam," he agreed quietly.
  Sam studied him for a moment and then sighed, relenting. "I'm
sorry, Al. I didn't mean to be insensitive. It's just that...well
I'm not ready to lose you, too."
  The scientist stood silent, studying him, waiting for a
response. "What do you want me to say, Sam?" he asked, his voice
tired and passive.
  "I don't know, but things haven't been right between us since
Beth died and there must be _something_ we can do that'll fix
this." Al closed his eyes and Sam took a step back out of the
  "I don't know what to do."
  Sam waited until he had opened his eyes and locked a firm gaze
on him. "Promise me."
  "I - I can't."
  "Al..." The word was a warning; a lot of pent up anger was
coming to the fore.
  Al blinked rapidly. "I can't," he repeated, seeming to force
the words out with incredible effort. Before Sam could respond,
he was gone, taking the hurt and anger with him, carrying it
around with that Fermi Suit he wore.