"The Day After That" pt. XII

August, 1980
Washington D.C.

  Al just rocked her slowly for a long time, each emotion and each touch
cautious and soothing. In the meantime, Sam called the police and Dirk
remained unconscious where he'd fallen. Al had obviously hit him pretty hard,
and Sam couldn't find it within himself to find even pity for Dirk Simon.
  "You know what?" Beth asked Al after a while.
  He buried his face in her hair. "What, baby?"
  "You still smell the same." He laughed lightly. "I've missed you."
  "I've missed you, too." He pulled her closer. "I'm not hurting you, am I?"
  Sam suspected he may have been, but she shook her head against his shoulder
and nestled deeper into his embrace.
  "I don't ever want to hurt you," he whispered.
  After Beth had exhausted herself, Al picked her up and put her on the couch.
Then he sat next to her and held her hand while they waited for the police and
the ambulance to arrive. Sam stood off to the side, watching as Al intertwined
his fingers with hers and held on tightly. She was obviously in pain, but it
didn't seem to be anything life-threatening. Al leaned in towards her and
whispered something in her ear. Sam smiled to himself; he knew from firsthand
experience that Al could be awfully reassuring when he wanted to be.
  "Is she gonna be okay, Al?" Sam asked of the hologram to his left.
  "Ziggy says she should be fine, but you'll need to take her to the hospital
so they can check the baby."
  Sam gaped. "Baby?" he repeated, astonished. "You mean she's-"
  "Four weeks," Al confirmed. "I thought you'd figured it out by now."
  "That's why she was always feeling sick," Sam said in realization.
  "Does she know?"
  "No, not yet, but she will after tonight."
  "So do you two remarry?" Sam ventured, asking what he had been wanting to
ask for the past ten minutes.
  "No. Too much had gone on." He looked past Sam at the woman lying on the
couch, her eyes squeezed tightly shut. "But she did stay in the area, across
town, until she had her baby." He smiled slightly at the memory. "A girl. She
named her Angela. Then, a few months after that, she went back to San Diego."
  "Really?" Sam asked, pleased.
  "Yeah, and in two years, she got back into nursing."
  "That's fantastic. What about you, Al?"
  The corner of his mouth lifted in ironic amusement. "I skipped a couple of
marriages. From there on out is pretty much the same. We did keep in touch,
though. And she's happy, Sam."
  Sam allowed himself a long sigh. "So...we ready to go?"
  "Looks that way," Al agreed. "The police'll be here in under five minutes
and everything works out fine. Dirk gets fifty years, by the way, for two
counts of attempted murder, breaking and entering, and abuse." He muttered
something in Italian, then added, "Better than he deserved, if you ask me."
  Sam nodded, then waited for several seconds. "Al, I'm not leaping." 
  "What?" the commander asked.
  "Oh, uh..." Sam took several hesitant steps forward. "Are you okay?" he
asked, indicating both of them in his question.
  Beth smiled faintly. "I'll be fine, thanks, Linny. For everything. You've
been a wonderful friend."
  Sam nodded at her. "You know. Beth...I was thinking and... Why don't you
stay here for-"
  "Nine months," the admiral put in.
  "-A while. Just while things get moving and you get, you know, settled."
  "Oh, I'm not so sure that's a good idea," Beth began, but Al squeezed her
hand, smiling tenderly at her.
  "Stay," he said simply.
  He kissed the hand he held. "I have an extra room. Please stay."
  "Sam..." the hologram said in astonished tones. "This is incredible. You
changed history."
  "Thank you," Beth whispered.
  "Now, Beth and I get married in one and a half years. I propose to her the
day her daughter is born. Oh, and get this, Sam, now she doesn't name her
Angela." He looked up from the `link. "She names her Lily. And when Lily turns
18, she takes my last name."
  Sam grinned.
  "Thanks, Sam," Al said quietly, and Sam leaped.

March, 2000
Stallions Gate, NM

  "What's wrong with Ziggy?" Beth asked him as he came down the ramp from the
Imaging Chamber.
  Al stopped and looked at her. "Beth?"
  "Yeah. Did you guys fix Ziggy okay?"
  "She wasn't...broken..." he fumbled uncertainly. Some part of him, though he
had read the history off to Sam, still expected to come back to his own time
and see things just as he'd left them.
  "You okay, Al?" He nodded numbly. Then he realized he hadn't moved from the
top of the ramp and he took several hesitant steps down it. "So what was all
that you were babbling about this morning?"
  *Uh...* "Oh, there was a problem, but it was nothing."
  She raised her eyebrows. "Nothing?" Obviously, his ranting had made it seem
like a very big `something'.
  He forced out a grin. "Yeah, nothing. As in none, nada, zero, zip."
  She looked carefully at him, then a slow smile spread across her face. "You
forgot `zilch'," she said mischievously.
  He laughed. "You little devil," he teased, reaching for her. 
  He wanted to touch her so badly.
  She didn't flinch at his touch, didn't pull away. Instead, she laughed with
him and threw her arms around his neck, kissing him lightly.
  He clung to her and then, finally, the memories came.

	^"You know, Al, it's a speed limit, not a speed suggestion."
	"Stop talking and breathe," Al replied, cutting off two more cars in one fell
 	She started to laugh, but another contraction took hold and the sound was
compressed into a small whimper. Al glanced worriedly at her. "Drive," she
ordered him between heavy breaths. "I'm not gonna have this baby in your car,
I promise."
	He hit the gas a little harder, anyway.
	Beth was right that they didn't need to worry - she delivered the baby five
hours later. After the commotion, the testing, not to mention the actual
birth, they were both grateful for the first moment alone the doctors gave
	Beth laid in the hospital bed, completely exhausted, the newborn cradled in
her arms. Al stood beside her.
	"What's her name?" Al asked softly.
	Beth kissed her daughter and smiled softly. "Lily. Lily Kathleen Ingalls."
	"Lily," Al repeated, touching Beth's face gently. "She's beautiful. Takes
after her mother."
	"Do you want to hold her?"
	Al hesitated, an almost shy expression on his face. He'd refused the chance
to hold her in the delivery room and so she'd been passed directly to her
	"Come on," Beth urged.
	Al picked her up and held her in his arms, mesmerized by the two large brown
eyes that stared at his every movement. "She's...geez, she's really trusting,
isn't she?"
	Beth laughed. "What choice does she have?" He smiled faintly and stared at
Lily for several more minutes, seeming to forget Beth was even in the room.
She watched Al's face intently for several seconds and then reached out a hand
and rested it against Al's hip, drawing him closer. He sat down in the chair
beside the bed. "I need to talk to you," she said quietly.
	Al tore his attention away from Lily's tiny face to look at Beth. "What is
	She touched Lily's head lovingly. "I was hoping... Will you be her father,
	His eyes glistened with tears and he swallowed. "If you'll be my wife."^

  Al's memory shifted to a day years later when Lily had come to him in
confusion and asked him if he was her real father. He'd sat her on his lap,
taken her small hand in his, and stared into her eyes. Yes, he did see some of
himself there, too.
  "Listen to me, sweetheart," he'd told her gently, "I adore you and I adore
your mother. I was there the day you were born and I'll be there for you as
long as I'm able. And I love you. So, yes, I am your real father."
  Al hugged Beth tightly. It was late and night would be falling several
stories above them. "Do you want to go for a walk?" he asked her.
  She pulled back and flashed a familiar smile. "I'd love to."
  He gazed quietly at her. "I love you," he said as they exited the building
and went out into the desert night underneath a canopy of stars.

+Ok...so a sappy ending. Sorry.  Anyhow, the next story should be starting
up at the end of the week. It's called "Linked", so be on the look-out if
you're interested. As always, any comments are welcome at
. Thanks for reading!