"Point of View" pt. III Act III, Scene I Beth hadn't paused to wonder before leaving the bungalow if it had been a good idea to go out to the bay, but she certainly questioned the wisdom of going after she'd arrived. It reminded her of too many warm nights filled with...just filled with his presence. At this point, just the memory of his presence was enough to bring back the heartache. And she wasn't sure it was a good idea to remember anymore. At first, she'd filled her life with things they used to do, places they used to go, but now... Now each time she did something that reminded her of him, it was like being told he'd just been shot down over and over and- Beth shook herself free and reached for a cigarette, her hands shaking. The light from the dimming sun caught on her bracelet and flashed in her eyes for a moment, but she pressed on. She lit the cigarette and tried to focus on the sunset, not the countless times she'd come here with her husband. She had just been lost in her own thoughts when a woman to her left spoke to her. "Excuse me." *Please, just go away. Just leave me alone.* Beth turned slightly to see an older woman with short gray hair standing beside her, shading her eyes. "Can I borrow your young eyes for a second?" she asked with a small smile. Despite her fervent wish just to be left alone, Beth removed the cigarette from her mouth and asked, "What are you looking for?" "I'm looking for a blue-hulled sloop with a red, white, and blue spinnaker." Beth lifted her own hand and peered over the water. "Oh! There it is - at the far end of the bay." "Good. I know it's silly - he's a bit late. But I always worry when he sails by himself." Beth smiled. The woman was very pleasant and suddenly she didn't mind the intrusion quite as much. "The wind doesn't carry a watch." "Sounds like my son," she replied with a light laugh. The nurse gasped slightly in appreciation and raised her hand again. "Oh, she's a beautiful sloop!" "Yes, she is." There was a small pause. "Is your M.I.A. bracelet for someone you know?" Beth lowered her arm and fingered the bracelet with her right hand. "My husband," she said quietly. "Oh, I am sorry." *Don't cry. Whatever you do, don't cry.* "Me, too." She tapped the bracelet with a fingertip and then looked back out at the water. "Well, I'd better be moving. It'll be dark before I get down there. Enjoy the sunset." "Thank you." The woman walked away, but then was back at her side in an instant. "I don't mean to be presumptuous, but my son and I are dining at the bay club. Would you care to join us?" Beth hesitated. She really didn't feel like company for the evening. At the mention of the bracelet, all she wanted to do was go back to the bungalow and curl up on the bed and cry. And then maybe wake up from this horrible nightmare. "Oh, that's very nice of you, but I don't think I'm dressed right for the bay club." "Nonsense," the woman continued in a kindly voice. "What could be more appropriate at a yachting club than a Naval Officer's uniform?" "You sure your son won't mind?" She smiled brightly. "No, I usually have a girlfriend my age in tow. When Dirk sees you, he'll be positively delighted. Beth blinked in amazement. "Dirk? Dirk Simon?" "Yes, do you know my son?" "I think we met yesterday." From behind, Beth heard a car door slam. Instinctively, she turned around and saw Jake emerging from a car, something in his hand. She turned back to the woman. "The invitation's very nice of you but I think I'd better pass." "Perhaps another time." Beth smiled. "I'd like that," she said sincerely. ^----^----^----^----^ Act III, Scene II Al knew she would be there. They used to go out to the bay constantly, watching the sun set, talking, and just enjoying each other's company. She was talking to an older woman and smoking a cigarette. Al would have liked nothing more than to sit and watch her all evening, but he had time constraints to think about. In another day, he'd be leaping out and, if he was going to accomplish anything, it would have to be now. Reaching for the bouquet of calla lilies lying on the front seat next to him, he took a deep breath and opened the car door. She turned slightly when the door slammed shut, exchanged a few more words with the woman next to her, then stared out to the bay for a few more moments. Finally, she crushed the cigarette under the tip of her shoe and started to walk towards him. *She's in uniform.* Al wiped a hand across his face to erase the emotion. *Oh, Beth...* As she came closer, he could see she looked angry. "You look beautiful," he told her automatically as she opened her mouth to speak. She hesitated, momentarily flustered, then seemed to regain her equilibrium and fire. "What are you doing here? How did you know I was up here?" He lifted the flowers, his gaze never wavering from her liquid brown eyes. "I came to give you these." Her response was immediate. "I hate calla lilies." She was detaching herself, he realized, trying to accept what she thought must be true. In spite of her tears the afternoon before, this was the first time he truly realized how much his leaving had hurt her. He laid the bouquet in her arms, careful not to touch her. He didn't dare think of what would happen if he did. "Well, they're my favorite," he murmured tenderly. She cradled them gently. "Mine too," she whispered, staring at them. Then she recovered and looked back up at him. "How did you find me?" she asked again. "Just a hunch." She shook her head and refocused on the flowers. "You wanna go grab a bite to eat?" he asked impulsively. Anything to be near her. Her shy, sweet smile slowly returned. "Okay." ^----^----^----^----^ Act III, Scene III He drove them to a little informal restaurant that they used to go to all the time and ordered a couple beers and some nachos. She seemed vaguely troubled by her surroundings, that deep sorrow still plainly visible in her eyes, even through the smile she offered him. They sat in silence until she glanced up to see him staring at her. Color rose in her cheeks and she took a sip of her beer to cover for her embarrassment. "So are you going to tell me what yesterday was all about?" she asked, discomfort leading her to fill up the stillness. He shrugged, still staring. He just couldn't seem to take his eyes off her. "What do you want to know?" "Well, you have to admit, it was a bit odd. Driving up, getting rid of Dirk..." She shook her head slightly. He smiled faintly. "You never know what kind of creeps are around trying to take advantage of other people. I just wanted to make sure you were all right." She looked carefully at him, then laughed softly. He grinned hesitantly. "What?" She turned her attention to her beer, avoiding his gaze. "You just...you just remind me of someone." Al tensed. "Really?" he managed. "Who?" She closed her eyes. "It doesn't matter." "It does," he pressed. "It really does." She opened her eyes again and immediately her gaze locked with Al's. "Not everything, but some of the things you say and some of the ways you act - remind me of my husband." Al took a heavy breath and laid his hands flat on the table. "That's who the bracelet's for?" She nodded, wiping a stray tear from the corner of her eye. "It's just passing phrases or..." She laughed again, but it was even more forced than before. "Or the look in your eyes. But the resemblance ends there," she said, as if to reassure him. "The two of you are really hardly alike." Al raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Really?" She smiled and he could feel his heart melting. "Yeah. You're so much more..." She cocked her head and looked intently at him. "Somber," she said finally. "Restrained. Sad. Why is that?" He ducked his head. "Just seen too much, I suppose." She nodded. "Yeah, me too. That's how I know-" She choked on the words and wiped her eyes again. "That he's dead?" Al finished for her, remembering his reaction when Dirk had said the same thing. "You know, as a...cop, I've seen a lot of things and I've learned a lot about people. I can tell you that willpower can do a lot." "Oh, he's strong-willed, all right. Been through a lot." She stared at him, Andy's face flashing in her mind. "But the will to survive can't stop a bullet." "There are a lot more painful ways to tear open a man's heart," he said quietly. She slapped her hand down on the table, fire burning in her eyes. "How _dare_ you say that to me?! I'm tired of taking second chair to everything - when do I get to live my life? When is it the right time to move on?" Al felt a hand clench his heart. "I don't understand," he said in the same low tones. "I've waited! I've waited for two long years - two years of hell! I put him first in my life, even when he was shot down and it hurts to know that I've only ever been third in his." Al was struck speechless for a moment. In the deafening stillness, he saw the anger start to subside in her face. "What do you mean?" he asked hoarsely. "He loved flying. And he loved the Navy. You do the math," she said, but there was no bitterness in her words. Only acceptance. Somehow, that hurt more. "That's not true," Al said desperately, standing up. "How can you say that? How can you..." He broke off, gasping for air and sanity. She looked up at him, puzzled. Slowly, Al sat back down. "Beth, experiences like...war... They have a way of making priorities fall into place with alarming clarity." She fingered the bottle. "Not if you're dead." A thought suddenly occurred to him. "You don't really believe that." She nodded somberly. "Yes, I do." "No. If you did, you would have moved on by now. Someone's going to make you - is making you believe that." "You're wrong," she whispered. "I've seen too many people torn apart to believe anymore." She shook herself abruptly from the memories. "I don't understand you," she said. "I thought you were trying to pick me up yesterday and then when you showed up today with flowers I was sure of it. But then you spend all this time talking about my husband..." She shrugged. "It doesn't make sense. Especially since that relationship just isn't meant to be anymore." "Meant to be," Al repeated dully. "What was meant to be," he elaborated, the volume of his voice rising slightly, "was for your husband to come home and find _you_." "Was?" she echoed blankly. At the look in his eyes, she rose to her feet. "I think I'd better go." He rose as well. "No, wait...I'm sorry." She stared at him, paused in the process of lifting her purse, but didn't speak. He couldn't let her leave now, or he'd lose her forever. "I was an M.I.A.," he said in a raspy voice, holding her with his eyes, "and my wife thought I was dead. And..." He took a shaky breath, but forced himself to keep looking at her. "And by the time they got word to her that I was alive, she had remarried and then disappeared. And I don't want that to happen to your h- husband." He stuttered over the last word, then sank weakly into the chair. Beth was motionless, clearly unsure how to react. "How long?" she managed finally. "Too long," was his only reply. He wiped his face, hoping she wouldn't ask any more questions. He didn't want to see how many memories he still had of that place. ^"I'm sorry, Lieutenant. I'm afraid I have some bad news."^ He took another deep breath. "Tell me about what happened," he said as she sat back down. "What made you give up hope?" ^"It's your wife..."^ "What made me give up?" she repeated and he nodded. She blinked and then tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "Truth," she said finally. ^"No...no, she's not dead."^ "It was the truth that did it." ^----^----^----^----^ Act III, Scene IV Al paused as they entered the bungalow. It was like a knife in his gut and the pain just kept spreading. He wasn't sure how much longer he could do this. "When they come in 80% burn, you know they're gonna die. There's nothing you can do. You try," Beth was saying. He had eventually prodded her into telling him about the Marine who had died, but the flat tone as she described the past few days scared him more than the story itself. "Sulfamyelen, penicillin, chloromycetin, Actinomycetin D. But in the end, they go septic and...die." Her voice trembled ever so slightly on the last word and Al took a heavy breath. Beth reached under the counter and pulled out a vase. "You learn not to get involved. Then one comes along like Andy - 80% burn but with a will to live that's so strong...you can feel it." She started fingering the flowers, handling each stem gently as if afraid they would snap at her touch. Looking around, Al couldn't believe how many calla lilies she had throughout the house. "And the grin," she continued. "Grin like Robert Redford. It was the grin that did it, made me believe that if anyone could beat the odds, it would be him. And, um, for a while, he did." Al took a step towards her. The small amount of control she had over her emotions was starting to slip. "But then the day before yesterday his blood started growing pseudomonas and by dawn his temp was 106 and he was..." Her shoulders tensed. "Vomiting blood." She was starting to tremble, now, both her voice and her body, but she still pressed on. "And by noon he was dead." A few sobs worked their way out. "Oh, God. I'm sorry," Beth breathed in a shaky voice. She tried to focus on the bit of ribbon, twisted tightly about her fingers as if she didn't know what to do with it. Al stood behind her, watching her body shake with suppressed emotion. Without any urging, he took another step towards her. This is what he'd wanted, right? The chance to be there for her during a time he never could have been before, to comfort and reassure her... His breath started to tremble. She turned slightly as he came up beside her, her hands fluttering anxiously. "I didn't mean to unload on you like-" All he did was touch her, ever so lightly on the arm. Her voice skidded upwards out of control and she turned and buried her face in his shoulder, clinging to him as if to life itself while sobs tore her apart. He didn't pause to think - couldn't have even if he'd tried - but wrapped his arms securely around her and held her tightly to himself. As he stood there in the house that had once been his listening to her cry, he felt her despair deep within his own heart and he gained new respect that she'd held on for as long as she had. Two years. Two years of hoping and praying and waiting for him to come home and act like a husband, act like the man he was supposed to be. There had been a large part of him, then, that hadn't understood that concept, that had gone off and done what he wanted and then not understood why it upset her so. That was what was on his mind when he signed up for his second tour: it was what he wanted, so why wouldn't it be what she wanted? And, because of that decision, he put her through two years of misery that he hadn't realized was tearing her apart until it was too late. Two years. Did he really believe she could make it another four? Al closed his eyes, trying to silence the internal voice that was destroying the moment. Even though the circumstances were wrenching, he was still touching her again. Oh, the times he'd dreamed of this! They were simply too numerous to count. Even if she didn't even know it was the man she wept for who was holding her. Once the fierce torrent of emotion had dimmed (Al was never certain how long it was before she pulled away but, whenever it was, it was too soon), he led her to the couch, never removing his touch from her shoulders. "I'm sorry," she said in barely audible tones, her voice shaking. Al brushed her hair back from her face. "Oh, no, honey. It's all right." "I just...I just miss him so much..." "Of course you do," he returned carefully. "Don't apologize for that." She closed her eyes and leaned her head against his shoulder. "It feels so good to be around someone who understands." With great effort, Al removed his hold on her. If he didn't, he wasn't sure how much further he was going to go and, besides, the last thing he wanted was for her to fall in love with "Jake" instead. He folded his hands, leaning his elbows on his knees. "He may be scared and be may be hurting, but he's alive," he whispered, mostly to himself. He couldn't seem to let the subject go, even to give either one of them relief. She opened her eyes again and shook her head. "How do you know?" He touched her cheek lightly with a fingertip and then clenched his jaw and his hand, pulling back. "You'd be surprised at the things I know." "Jake, I realize we don't really know each other," she said quietly, still wiping at her eyes, "but I really..." She paused as another sob forced its way out. A shaky hand touched his arm. "I really need someone to be with me tonight..." Al pulled her hand from his arm and clenched it tightly within his own. Every time she touched him he wanted more, and it scared him. But he couldn't leave her alone. Even if she hadn't asked, he just...couldn't. "You got it, sweetheart," he said in light tones, and she laughed in spite of the tears. She was trying so hard. Trying not to be a burden on anyone else, trying to fight her way through this terror alone. But her courage broke Al's heart and he reached out to hold her again. "Don't worry about it, baby," he said soothingly, "if you need to cry, cry." She stopped fighting for the moment, surrendering to the despair she dealt with every minute, but the very moment she gave in, Al knew he had to fight that much harder, for her and for himself. ^----^----^----^----^ Act III, Scene V Dr. Beckett sat at his desk working on paperwork. At least, he was trying to work on paperwork. In reality, his mind was light years away. Or, at the very least, roughly 27 years away. This was one of the most straightforward leaps they'd had in a long while. They knew clearly what Al was there for, they knew who it was they had to stop, and they knew just when the crime had occurred. But something was still wrong. Sam knew Al very well. Better than Al probably either realized or would have liked, to be honest. And he knew when something was bothering him. But Al was more than just bothered or preoccupied...he was thoroughly engrossed in his own agenda. Sam had never known Al to be apathetic to the plights of those he was sent to help, but he didn't seem to care about saving Scaggs' life at all. Not that Sam thought he wouldn't save him, but he doubted that Al was giving any real thought to how to go about doing this with the smallest muss possible. More than that, though, Sam knew he had been lied to. Whatever was gnawing away at the admiral, he not only wasn't saying, but he was making up excuses to cover for it. Al had told Sam about a lot of things in his past. Many of them, more than once, thanks to swiss-cheesing. Even so, he still had his secrets, Sam knew. Nonetheless, Sam resolved to have a talk with him as soon as it was morning in San Diego of 1969. ^----^----^----^----^ Act III, Scene VI The dawn was just starting to creep over the horizon when Al woke up, stiff and uncomfortable from the position he'd fallen asleep in. Beth was curled up on the couch, moving in restless sleep. He wasn't entirely sure how he'd gotten on the floor, but either way his back and neck protested that it had been a bad idea altogether. He stretched and turned to stare at Beth, wondering what time it was and what time she had to be at work. A quick survey of the house to locate her appointment book revealed that she had no early shift the next morning. He would have taken the day off himself, but he knew Sam would be back and he still had to save Roger Scaggs. From her position, Beth started to stir and he knelt back down beside the couch, brushing her hair back gently. "Hey, it's okay, honey," he whispered. She covered his hand with hers. "Al?" she asked softly. He felt a tight grip squeeze his heart. *Please, just this once. Just this once let me be her husband, the man who swore to never stop loving her and who never did. Just for a moment...* He leaned forward over her. "Yeah, it's me. Just go back to sleep," he coaxed as she moved further towards wakefulness. "Don't worry, I'm here." He reached for the blanket off the back of the couch and pulled it over her. "I'm here and I love you." She was still a moment longer, then she opened her eyes. "Jake?" Al removed his hand from her head with a sharp jerk, scrambling to his feet. "It's okay, Beth, you still have a while to sleep. It's early yet." She looked at him curiously, still not entirely awake. "I thought..." Then she stopped and sat up slightly. "What?" His voice was barely a whisper and he knew it had to be shaking. "I..." She blushed and lowered her head back onto the cushions. "Nothing, never mind." He started for the back of the house. "Jake?" He turned back to face her, praying she couldn't make out the expression on his face. "Thank you." Al nodded to save the effort of trying to speak and headed back for their bathroom as Beth drifted back off to sleep. He stared at the reflection in the mirror and then turned on the tap, splashing cold water on his face. "You're up early," came a voice from behind him and Al jumped and whirled. "Sam..." "Al?" Sam gaped slightly. "You look like hell." Then he seemed to notice his surroundings. "Where _are_ we?" "_In_ hell," Al muttered, just low enough so Sam couldn't hear him. "What?" "Nothing. Look, I still have the entire day before Scaggs dies, right?" Al reached for a towel and dried his face while Sam called up the information. "Yeah, that's right." Sam stepped through the door to eye Beth, sound asleep on the couch. He moved back "into" the room and shook his head. "I don't even want to know," he said, waving his hand at Al. "Just don't tell me." "Sam!" Al looked angry enough to kill, so caught up in his emotions that he didn't even realize he was sealing Sam's belief that something was terribly, seriously wrong. After all, when did Al Calavicci not zero in on a young, beautiful woman? Sam just nodded. "Okay, I'll go back and see if we've got all the details we need and I'll meet back up with you at the station." "When?" Al asked, avoiding the hologram's eyes. "When?" Sam echoed, confused. "Yeah, when are you going to meet me at the station?" Sam eyed him carefully. "When I get the data." "Oh...good." "And I need to talk to you then, okay? It's important," Sam said pointedly. It was time to try and get things out into the open. "Sure, pal." Sam watched Al leave the room and pull on his jacket, and then he opened the Door reluctantly, returning to his own time. Al studied Beth a moment longer - he just couldn't seem to stare at her for long enough - then turned and left the house. ^----^----^----^----^ Act III, Scene VII Sam Beckett walked slowly down the ramp, dropping the handlink on the console with a thoughtful look on his face. How much longer could he afford to bide his time before confronting Al? He had the terrible feeling it had to be soon, but would Al even listen to him at this point? "Sam?" Donna asked beside him. "Are you okay?" He turned to her and smiled slightly in response. "Ziggy?" "Ye-es, Dr. Beckett?" "Run a background check on that woman Al was with this morning, will you? I have a bad feeling about all this." "Do you wish me to go back to the point of conception?" she replied, voice silky soft. "Just the basics. Probably someone he just met," Sam added, trying to convince himself of the possibility even as he spoke it. Still, the part that knew Al almost as well as he knew himself told him he was wrong. ^----^----^----^----^ Act III, Scene VIII "Hey, brother, how `bout a donation?" asked a voice behind Al, but it didn't matter if he was the one being spoken to - he didn't hear anything, anyway. He still felt numb from the night before and every second he spent at the station was wasted time. Finally, the Imaging Chamber Door slid open and Sam emerged. "Al, we need to talk." Al froze. Did he know? "About what?" "About whatever it is that's bothering you. Like it or not, you have a job to do and I need to make sure, first and foremost, that you're going to do it." Al looked up at him, his eyes ablaze. "What are you saying, Sam?" he asked in a dangerous tone. Sam sighed and the wall of neutral emotion he'd tried to build up crumbled before him. "Al, I'm worried about you. We all are. Something's wrong and...I just want to help." Al reached into his locker to hang up his jacket. "Nothing's wrong." "Look me in the eye and say that." "Look, Sam, I said I'd save the guy's life and I'll save the guy's life, okay?!" "His name is Roger Scaggs," Sam said, as if to remind him of his duty, and Al resented it. "What, you don't trust me to do it, is that it?" Sam put out a hand. "Hey, relax, willya? I never said that, and I never believed that. It's just...I've never seen you keep such a distance from the people you're supposed to help before. I've never seen you strain so hard not to involve yourself." "Maybe I just have more important things to think about," he said quietly, some of the anger starting to drain from his words. This wasn't Sam's fault. Sam was his friend, always would be, but...but he didn't want him trying to stop him. He didn't want Sam telling him that... *That what I'm trying to do won't work. If it doesn't, hopefully I'll leap out and never remember her again. But if I suffered this much, if _she_ suffered this much, and it was all for nothing - I couldn't bear it.* "Al..." Sam's tone was pleading. "Talk to me, please." "I can't! Don't you get it, Sam? I _can't_! Just...just please tell me what I need to do and when I need to do it." "Al..." "I mean it, Sam," Al said, turning to face his partner. They each stared at the other and Al felt as if they were on opposite precipices, staring over a huge chasm. *I never meant for it to be this way, Sam. I didn't. But I can't let her go, not even for you. You and I, we'll patch this up later, but Beth and I...this is our only chance.* "That call's going to be coming through any moment," Sam said in subdued tones. He was obviously hurt. "You might want to talk to your partner before he goes off by himself." Al swallowed. *I'm sorry.* ^----^----^----^----^ Act III, Scene IX Lost in a book was a good place to be, Beth decided. It was easier to forget thing when you were in another world to begin with. Her only interruption was the waitress doing her job, and then she returned to that other world. She was thoroughly engrossed in her reading when a voice asked, "I take it everything turned out all right?" She looked up, startled, to see Dirk Simon staring at her from the next table. A small smile materialized on her face before she'd realized it. "What?" she managed. "With the police," he clarified with a suave grin. "Oh, it was nothing, really. He...saw I was in trouble and wanted to help." "He was trying to pick you up," Dirk corrected. She blushed. "I'm afraid so." "Was he successful?" Rather than go into those waters, she steered the conversation into calmer seas. "I met your mother yesterday." Dirk laughed. "She told me she met an attractive young Naval Officer and invited her to dinner." "It was really sweet of her." He twisted his face into an expression of denial. "She's not sweet. She has a single son and she wants grandchildren." Beth couldn't help but laugh. "I'm sorry you had another commitment. Well...since you couldn't make dinner, how `bout lunch?" She wasn't certain whether or not to accept, but since she was trying so hard to forget anything that could call back more pain... Beth smiled slightly and nodded. ^----^----^----^----^ Act III, Scene X "San Diego Police." The woman took a deep breath. Acquiring guns was one thing, but this...this could be accessory to murder. In the background, her baby began to cry. She leaned heavily against the wall. "I want to speak to...Detective Scabs, please."