"Point of View" pt. II Act II, Scene I "If this is an April Fool's Day joke, you're gonna regret it a long time, Jake. A long, long time." Al sat anxiously in the passenger's seat as more memories washed over him like water, filling up every part of his being, smothering him. Not for the first time, Al became increasingly frustrated with his swiss-cheesed mind. When did they meet? Had it actually been April first or was that when they'd married? Now _that_ thought twisted his stomach into agonizing knots. The main problem was that Al wasn't sure of how much he was actually forgetting as opposed to what he never knew in the first place. Geez, he wished, just once, that he was the one with the handlink. "It's not a joke," Al insisted. "Jake, why are we going to this woman's house? You got a date in the middle of the afternoon, man?" Roger Scaggs grinned. "Or you just never get the chance to say good-bye this morning?" Al could have hit him. He balled his hands into fists, but didn't move. "Not hardly, Scaggs," he muttered. Then he gave a frustrated sigh. "I just have to see her, okay?" The man's teasing nature gradually dissolved. "Whatever you say." "Wait!" he cried, gripping Scaggs' shoulder involuntarily. Al tried to say more, but his heart had lodged itself in his throat and he was helpless. Though he hadn't spoken, Scaggs could clearly see the look he was giving the scene off to the right in the distance. Even so, he was oblivious to its meaning. "Yeah, the car's a beaut, isn't it? I'll bet-" "Stop," Al whispered. Then, louder, "Stop!" Scaggs stopped the car behind the vehicle he'd just admired. A woman stood by it, bending over a flat tire. The sound of his radio stood out suddenly in the stillness. ~Between the two of us guys you know I love you more.~ Al opened the car door, alternately mesmerized and angered by the scene in front of him. "Hey, Rawlins, that guy's got her taken care of," Scaggs said, trying to urge his partner back into the car. "Jake!?" ~I heard it through the grapevine; not much longer would you be mine.~ Al never heard him. Her back was to him, but it diminished the impact of the moment only slightly. He wanted to run to her, to take her in his arms and never let her go. If he could only touch her, just once, maybe he would be whole again. As these feelings emerged, so did the old, bitter pain, the pain that was erased all those years by the only blessing a memory full of holes could give. And now it was back with all the fresh agony as if it had happened yesterday. ~...I'm just about to lose my mind.~ And then he came around the side of the car. A man with too warm a smile and too immaculate a hairstyle was crouched beside the car, fiddling with the jack. Every so often, he would glance up at Beth and grin. This was the man, Al _knew_, that she had run off with. This was the man who had taken advantage of her in her hour of need - the time of crisis when Al should have been there. This was the man who had taken Al's place. He wasn't sure if it was anger or guilt or some bizarre combination of both that drove him forward, but the next thing he knew, he had grabbed the too suave, too sweet, too charming man in front of him by his no-longer too spotless jacket and pulled him up from the ground. As Al pushed him against the car, he heard Jake's partner scramble to stop him. "Hey, Jake, take it easy," he said, trying to pull Al back. "What are you doing?" Mr. Perfect snarled, shaking off Al's grasp with Roger's help. "I'm a lawyer and I could make some definite trouble for you, pal," he continued coldly. "Is this your husband?" he demanded of Beth. "I've never seen him before in my life," she replied in startled tones. Al could never be certain if it was the mere sound of her voice or the wrenching words themselves that made him go limp in Scaggs' restraint. ~I know a man ain't supposed to cry, but these tears I can't hold inside.~ "Excuse me, pal, but who the hell are you?" Al hesitated. "Jake. Jake Rawlins." "What do you think you're doing, Jake?" he asked, his voice becoming more and more agitated each time he spoke. Al motioned to the car. "Changing a tire." "Now look, pal, I-" Scaggs had obviously thought it was time to take control of the situation and he pulled out his badge. "Sir? Could you step over to the car and show me your ID?" he said, motioning to his vehicle. He cast Al a puzzled glance as he led the stranger away. "So, uh, how long have you know the suspect?" he asked when they were out of earshot. Dirk did a double take. "Suspect? I don't know her at all - she had a flat and I offered to fix it for her." Roger Scaggs snorted. "Yeah, would you have offered if she was 50 and fat?" As the two continued to distract each other, Al knelt down and took over with the tire. Beth bent over him, her hands on her knees, her hair blowing in the breeze. If she'd been standing any closer, he could have leaned over and kissed her. His heart began beating faster. ~Losin' you would end my life, you see, 'cause you mean that much to me.~ "What's he done?" she hissed. Al still didn't look up at her, but the hubcap he held began to blur. *Everything.* "Nothing," he said, "yet." "Why are you questioning him?" "It's nothing you need to worry about, Beth." She stopped and stared. "How do you know my name?" *Damn!*" I, ah... I heard that nozzle over there say it." *Lame, Al, real lame.* In the resounding stillness, Al finally looked up. He felt his heart beat faster still as she laughed lightly. "What?" he asked, amazed he could still talk. He was held captive by her very presence - her hair and her eyes and, oh, God, he could _smell_ her, as fresh and pure as the bay breeze itself and- "Nothing," she said shyly. "It's just...nothing." Al wasn't entirely sure what she was reacting to. He didn't even think he could remember what he'd said, let alone why she was smiling like that. He loved her smile. "What?" he prompted again. She brushed her hair behind her ear. "My husband used to say that." Al tightened the last lug and looked back up. "Used to?" ~Do you plan to let me go for the other guy...~ She started to reply, but then she just gripped the shiny M.I.A. bracelet and turned away. "You're not going to explain this, are you?" she said miserably. Al's very being ached. He swallowed back his emotions and, gathering the tools, stood to dump them in the trunk. "I really can't...talk about it with you." Dirk Simon suddenly drove up beside them. "Whatever you've done, if you need assistance just give me a call," he said, handing Beth his card. Al resisted the urge to snap it out of her hands. "Would you mind handing me my bag?" Then he grinned and added in a mocking tone, "Jake." Al hated him. He hated the man's straight white teeth when he smiled. And he hated that Dirk was here with _his_ Beth while he was lying, broken and bleeding, in a cage halfway across the world. Al took his fury and rage and helplessness and directed it all towards Dirk as he lifted the bag and threw it towards - no, _at_ him. Dirk only widened his grin. "Thanks." He cast Beth a parting look, then drove off. Beth stared at the card a moment, then looked angrily at Al. "What have I done?" she demanded. Al slammed the trunk. "Nothing." "Your partner just told him I did something wrong while you let me think you were investigating him. Why?" She crossed her arms, putting on a brave front, but Al could see the anger slowly giving way to hurt and despair. But at least Dirk was gone. "Beth, I really can't...talk to you about that," he managed, only vaguely aware that he was repeating himself. He turned to go back to Roger's car, but her voice stopped him again. "Why are you doing this?" He glanced back at her. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you." "Try me." *I wish I could, sweetheart. You have no idea.* "Look...I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry you had to go through any of this." He glanced at Scaggs. "Let's go." Scaggs stared at Beth and she looked back, seeking explanations. "This is an April Fool's Day joke, isn't it?" he asked. Completely confused and overwhelmed, Beth started to cry. Al knew she felt like an idiot, standing out in the middle of the street crying in front of two people she didn't think she knew, but he couldn't stay. He didn't know when Sam would be back and the last thing he needed was his partner trying to stop him. She turned slightly away from them and Scaggs got in the car. Al stood outside the passenger door, trying to find the strength to leave. He could never stand it when she cried. Except... Except she'd cried when he told her he was leaving for a second tour, and he'd still left her then. Al's knuckles turned white against the car door and he took a step forward towards her. "Jake." Roger's voice reached him through a thick haze. "Come on, man, I gotta get home." "Right," Al murmured. He closed his eyes and swallowed hard. "Right," he repeated, and got in. ^----^----^----^----^ Act II, Scene II He should never have left her, but he thought everything was taken care of. All night he'd lain awake, waiting for new memories to flood his mind. Even if he couldn't trust his own memory, Sam was aware of changes and certainly _he_ would have shot through the Imaging Chamber Door, demanding to know what Al had done, wouldn't he? Al was turning onto the appropriate street when Sam popped in beside him. The scientist looked around the car, confused. "Shouldn't you be at work?" "I am," Al responded. "We had a drug bust this morning and now I'm...on my way to our new location." Sam looked skeptical, but he accepted it. "I have some more data for you. Ziggy says that the girlfriend bailed these two guys out of jail last night and then managed to secure a couple of guns for them. He gets killed in this little bar just around the corner from the station. The girl calls in tomorrow with an anonymous tip to get him there. If you can just keep him from getting that tip, you'll be outta here by dinner." "That's great, Sam," Al said unenthusiastically. Sam squinted at his friend. "You sound really convincing. What's up, Al?" "Nothing." "Don't lie to me, Al..." "Just missing home," he said quietly. Sam lowered the handlink and sighed deeply. "Do you want to talk?" "No, I just...I just need some time to myself, okay, Sam?" *Please, Sam, I can't tell you what I'm trying to do. And every moment you're here I worry you'll figure it out.* Al shifted uncomfortably in the seat. "Okay, I'll be back this evening and maybe we can figure how to save his life early." Sam regretting leaving so soon, but if Al really needed that time alone... Al nodded absently. "Good. See you then." Sam punched out and he heaved a huge sigh of relief. He had just arrived. Al got out of the car and slammed it shut behind him as he contemplated the building. Narrowing his eyes, he climbed the stairs and entered through the main entrance, the overcooled lobby causing a shiver to run down his spine. At least, he blamed it on the temperature. He was about to walk up to the receptionist's desk when _he_ came out of a nearby office. At first he didn't see Al, but then their eyes met and both men froze. "What are you doing here?" Dirk demanded, smoothing back his hair. Al turned to face him. "I came to talk to you, pal. I want you to stay away from Beth," he said firmly, aggression exerting itself in both his voice and his stance. Dirk smiled that pretty-boy smile that made Al want to deck him. "Are you the kind of man who moves in on another man's turf, _Jake_?" *Turf? _Turf_?!* "Depends," he retorted with equal force. "Are you the kind of guy who tries to seduce married women?!" Dirk slapped his shoulder condescendingly. "I had my eye on her before you." "Yeah? Well I figure her husband had his eye on her before either one of us." "Then let him come back and get her." Al glared. "Maybe he has." "What is that supposed to mean?" Al took a step forward until they were face to face. "Look, I'm telling you to leave her alone. She's lonely and scared and worried and she doesn't need to deal with slime like you on top of it all." "Look, _pal_, her husband's dead. Nobody survives that long over there." Al's anger reached a climax and he shoved Dirk harshly into the wall. "Why does everyone assume he's dead?! You, her, dammit, why can't _someone_ have a little faith?!" Dirk stiffly removed Al's hands from his shoulders and stepped out from in front of him. "Lay a hand on me again and you'll find your badge in my display case. If you'll excuse me, I'm late for lunch." Al wanted to go after him but he felt sick to his stomach. He felt as if he was the hologram - the invisible man who didn't really exist. He felt...empty. For the first time he was aware of the looks everyone was giving him and he turned numbly and left the office. ^----^----^----^----^ Act II, Scene III "Oh, that's smart, Boner." The man shook his head as he watched his friend (it wasn't all that accurate a term, but it was adequate for the situation) trying to prompt his girlfriend's baby into taking a sip of the `Boner' looked to him, his long hair in scraggly disarray. Not that he cared about that. "What?" "She only understands Mex," he pointed out. He took the glass and held it to the baby's lips. "Quieres un prago de tequila, nina?" Scared, the baby began to bawl, just as her mother entered the bar. "Hey!" she cried, running to rescue the child. "Eres tu loco?" "What kind of a mother are you? See? You frightened her." She sat the baby down on a nearby table and started to soothe her. "Better mother than you ever had. Madre de dios! I'm sorry I made your bail." All he cared was if she did the job he wanted of her, and he promptly let her know that. "Billy come through?" "Yeah, well, what do you think?" she demanded, irritated. He grabbed the bag and pulled out two guns, shiny and...perfect. "Hey, Boner?" "What?" he asked, the word barely coherent. "What'd that pig call the narc that shot me?" "I don't remember." A blank look entered the man's eyes. "Something that started with an `s'?" He smiled. "Scabs. Yeah, that was it...Scabs." He pointed the gun at his companion. Then he grinned. "Boom," he hissed, pulling the trigger. Boner started to laugh, a wheezing sound that anyone else would have found repulsive. Instead, he laughed with him.