August 1980

Laurel, MD

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 the admiral hadn't said much, so he assumed it wasn't 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. "B-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.

"Exactly."

"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.

"Here?"

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 a year and a half. 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 swoop.

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 them.

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 mother.

"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 it?"

She touched Lily's head lovingly. "I was hoping... Will you be her father, Al?"

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.