"Sink or Swim"
Part III

September, 1986
Gulf of Alaska, AK

Sam dug around for some lunch and then went cautiously into the room
that he hoped was his. Kate was lying on the bottom bunk with headphones
on and, although she was still, he didn't think she was asleep. She was
half inside the sleeping bag, and he noticed she hadn't even bothered to
get changed. Then again, he supposed, as the only female on board a
small vessel with three males, she wasn't liable to even put on a
nightgown for bed.

He sifted through the drawers, wondering which one was his and what
Allen wore to bed.

"You guys waiting to bait up?" Kate asked suddenly from behind him.

He turned, startled and vaguely embarrassed, even though he hadn't been
doing anything that was distinctly out-of-character. He hoped.
"Yeah...Steve gave us a few hours to get some sleep."

She laughed sleepily. "Glad I don't have to go out in this weather.
Looks as if I got the easier hours, huh?"

"Why? When do you work?"

She pulled the headphones from her ears and turned on her side. "Unless
you count the mounting paperwork I've got waiting, it could be a while.
Steve says to expect this weather for another 24 hours at least, then
you still have to set and soak the line. Could be a day and a half yet."
She grinned. "That'd be why I don't get the big bucks."

"You deserve them, just for putting up with Elliot."

She shrugged from her prone position. "Oh, he's not really so bad. He
could be trying to pull illegal stuff on me - I had a crew that did
that. Then I had another where the skipper would have his deck hands do
practically everything for my work and they'd get sore at me. But,
basically, everyone up here's been really great."

Sam braced himself against the top bunk as the boat bucked over an
unusually large swell. "Yeah, well... I'd better get that sleep, huh?"
She nodded and he peered carefully at her. "You okay?"

All discomfort seemed to vanish. "Oh, sure, just a little woozy. Lost my
sea legs while I was stuck in Anchorage."

Sam looked uncertainly at her. "Well, let me know if that Dramamine
gives ya any trouble."

She waved him off and tucked the walkman away. "I'll be fine, thanks,

Sam swung himself precariously up onto the top bunk and settled in for
his well-deserved three hours, all thoughts of concern for Kate
dissolving as he slipped into oblivion.

November, 1999
Santa Fe, NM

As Karen began to cry silently, Cary pulled her back and glared at Al.
Al resisted his actions, but she didn't.

"Just who the hell're you?" Cary demanded.

"Me?" Al retorted, anger fringing his words, "Who're you?"

"He's my friend," Karen stated defensively and Al realized he'd just
alienated himself from her again.

"Yeah, I had friends like him once," Al retorted, his black eyes deep
with fury. Maybe Cary hadn't hurt her physically, but Karen had come to
this "friend" hurt and scared with a pain too deep to be reached without
care and time. Al had always trusted his gut instincts and all his
entrails were warning him against this boy who was already living out on
his own and harboring his goddaughter. Emotional rape was still just
that - rape. "Friends," Al muttered in disgust. "Nothing better than a
friend who has a bottle ready when you _really_ need one, right?"

"It's not like that," Karen insisted, more calmly. "And it's not that
other thing, either." Cary put an arm protectively around her shoulders.

"The hell it's not. Karen, why didn't you come to me? Don't you know I
would have done what I could to help?"

Her forehead wrinkled. "You've been gone for years - why should it even
occur to me to go to you?"

Al winced, but he didn't back down. "Your father did."

"My father is being blind in every respect except that which counts."

Al sighed. She was right, of course, but it wouldn't help matters to get
into that discussion now. "Karen, why don't you just come with me? Just
for a while. No pressure, no tricks. I just want to talk. Let me tell
your father that you're safe, at least."

"So tell him," Cary interjected. "But she's not coming with you."

"Cary..." Karen looked up at him and Al was unable to define what was
communicated in the expression they exchanged, but he had the feeling
that he'd just regained the ground he'd lost when he hit Cary. "I'm not
going back," she stated firmly, more calmly than she had thus far.

"I'm not asking you to," Al said carefully, "I just want to be sure
you're all right."

"I'm fine," she said tightly. He didn't believe her.

"Right. That's why you were crying when I got here."

Cary stepped forward, gathering whatever courage the boy - Al felt the
label was justified - could find. "That's none of your business."

Al eyed them both, speculating on what to say next, when Karen moved
away from Cary. It was just a half step, but it was enough for him to
wonder exactly what the cause of those tears had been.

Karen cleared her throat. "What did...my father have to say?"

He took in Cary's form again, knowing deep inside of him that the first
priority was to get her away from here. Intentions aside, this place
wasn't safe, and he knew that. Whether it was unsafe because of the
neighborhood or Cary, he wasn't yet certain. "That he's sorry."

Karen caught her breath. "Is he."

Al cleared his throat. "This isn't the place for this. Karen...please?"

"I'm coming back here after, got it?"

He sighed reluctantly. They'd have to work on that one later. "If it's
what you want."

Her green eyes spoke volumes, but she snatched her sweater from the
couch and turned to Cary. "I'll just-"

"Karen," he hissed his warning, grabbing her arms, "you promised."

"No," she whispered, thinking Al couldn't hear her, or maybe not caring,
"I need to know what he said. I need to know what's going on."

"You'd better be back later," he said slowly. Al tensed.

Karen kissed him on the cheek, nodding as she turned away. "Let's go,"
she said to Al, and he followed her out.

It was on the way into town when Gooshie called.

September, 1986
Gulf of Alaska, AK

Karen had protested strongly, to say the least, to being taken away from
Cary and then put up in a hotel in Stallion Springs, but Al knew if he
could just get the data to Sam early on, the leap could be a lot easier
to deal with later on.

Sam Beckett was out on deck, baiting tubs, and not looking in the least
as if he was enjoying it. There were bags under his eyes indicating that
the two hours' sleep he'd gotten were not nearly enough. On top of that,
he still hadn't adjusted to the constant motion of the boat, which was
now considerable.

Elliot was engrossed in cursing at his tub when Al popped in.

"Calm down, Elliot," Steve said with incredible patience. "The more
frustrated you get, the more snags you'll get."

"It's not my fault," he protested, throwing some more line recklessly
into the tub. "This boat is moving too much. Every time I get it fixed,
it tosses the tubs around more and they get tangled."

"That's because you're not being careful," Steve admonished without
aggression. The captain glanced up at Sam and smiled dimly. Al could
tell Elliot was starting to really get on both of their nerves.

"How's it goin', Sam?"

Sam, jumped slightly and the hook he was working with missed its target
and wedged itself into his thumb. "Shoot!" he said in frustration and
Steve glanced up. Elliot snickered. "I'm...gonna go rinse this out."

"Be sure you put something on it," Steve warned without looking up.
"Don't want fish poisoning, especially considering we're a little ways
from the nearest hospital..."

 I'll be back in a few," Sam said and glared meaningfully at Al. Then he
went inside, pulled off the rain jacket, and rinsed his thumb out under
the sink. "Fish poisoning?" he hissed under his breath. "How many ways
are there to die out here?!"

Al's face took on a martyred expression. "Well, Sam, there's a lot of
bacteria in fish slime, and an open cut on deck is just a-"

Kate was stretched out on her bunk and her head and shoulders were
visible through the open door to the stateroom. She put down the book
she was reading and called to Sam, "Everything getting nice and nasty
out there?" she asked, saving Sam from the conversation.

"Incredibly so," Sam answered sourly. "How you feeling?"

"Bored," she replied with a grin, then returned to the book.

"Sam," Al prompted, gesturing upwards with his cigar towards the
wheelhouse, "we need to talk."

Obediently, Sam climbed the stairs and braced himself against the seat
up there (which, he found, had a seat belt on it), and faced the
hologram. "Okay, Al, what do we have?"

Al noted the pale complexion of his friend, but refrained from comment.
"Ziggy's pried into the Coast Guard records."


Al lifted the handlink. "Well, for starters, don't let her take any
medication for her motion sickness. You guys aren't going to be doing
any fishing for another 36 hours at least and her body will have
adjusted by that point."

Sam frowned at him. "She already took it, Al, remember?"

"Well don't let her take any more, all right?"

"Why not?"

"Allen!" Sam winced as Steve yelled at him from upstairs. "Come on back
out. We've only got five more tubs to do, then we can call it quits and
have some dinner."

"I'll be right out!" he hollered back. Then, as he descended the stairs,
somewhat unsteadily, he demanded, "Al, just skip to the bottom line,
willya?" He glanced up to find himself face-to-face with Kate, on her
way to the head. She grinned uncertainly at him. "Hi," he fumbled.

"Hi... Everything okay?"

Al raised his eyebrows and studied her. "Everything's fine from where

"Everything's good, thanks," Sam interrupted. He started to pull on his

She laughed lightly. "Didn't anyone tell you that's bad luck?"

Sam paused in the process of snapping up the gear. "What is?"

She gestured to the jacket and bib. Al broke in helpfully. "It's green,
Sam. That's supposed to be back luck, wearing green. So is whistling in
the wheelhouse, leaving port on a Friday, mentioning pigs and cows-"

"The color," Kate clarified. "They told us specifically: no green or

"Then again," Al was still rambling, "women on board are supposed to be
bad luck, too." He eyed Kate again, mainly for show. "Like to meet the
schmuck who came up with _that_ rule."

"Uh, well... I like green."

Kate laughed again and went into the head, closing and locking the door
behind her. Sam shook his head and finished pulling on his gear.

Al put one finger to his chin. "Y'know, Sam, I used to date a girl who
modeled this stuff."

Sam couldn't help but chuckle. "Al, it's fishing gear. For fishermen. I
highly doubt it's ever been modeled."

"Yeah? Maybe it was a stripper, then." He snapped his fingers. "That was
it - I remember now. She never wore anything underneath."

"And in the meantime, the data Ziggy has is...?"

"Oh. Right." Before he could pick up where they'd left off, the door to
the head and to the deck opened simultaneously and both Kate and Elliot

Kate shook a finger at them. "Go do your work," she scolded.

"Oh, you should talk," Elliot started. "Hey, I heard a good one the
other day in Sitka. How many observers does it take to screw in a light

She rolled her eyes. "Enlighten me."

"One. She'll identify it, and measure it, but then she calls a deckhand
over to actually do the work."

Al coughed. "Y'know, Sam, I'm not sure I appreciate all these observer

Kate bowed slightly, holding onto a handle by the door. "Thanks so much
for the riddle."

Al took a step towards her. "She's looking dizzy already, Sam." Sam
raised his eyebrows. "Maybe I should keep an eye on her while you
work... What?" he added at Sam's reproving look, "I was being serious!"

"Steve wants you back out on deck, pronto," Elliot told Sam and then
went back out himself. Kate didn't even look at them, but made her way
back to the stateroom.

"Condensed version, Al," Sam muttered between clenched teeth as he
pulled on his gloves.

Al, who was watching her carefully as she eased herself back onto the
bunk, turned now to his partner. "It's not just the weather. We think
she was in bad shape long before she ever went over the rail."