Title: Bittersweet Spark. This story is the second out of ? in the series Reflections and Refractions

Disclaimer: QL belongs to Donald Bellisario, NBC and MCA/ Universal.

Summary: Sam meets Al at the worst part in his life and has a message for him.

Warnings: This story is part of a series. For now, it's rated PG-13 for violence.

Dedication: This whole series is going to be dedicated to J.D. Rush in part for being such an awesome Beta.

Author's Note: Part of this story is inspired by the M*A*S*H episode "Mulcahy's War"

Sam

As I take in the environment, I notice that I'm in a holding cell. I smell the fowl stench of decay and feel straw digging against my raw skin. I look down at myself and realize that I'm in green fatigues. "Oh, boy." It doesn't take me too long to fit the pieces together and figure that I am a POW.

Talk about the leaps getting harder.

I see one of the prisoners of war that is sharing my holding cell talking with a Vietnamese guard. In the POW's hand is a faded picture. "My girl, Sarah," he tells the guard. The guard then pulls out a photo of his little girl, "An" he says, pointing to the picture. "Me, Andrew, Drew," the POW says to the Vietnamese guard, gesturing to himself. "Me, Bao," the guard says back.

In that simple exchange of words a bond is formed. Over the next day, I notice that Bao shows concern for Drew, giving him some of his own meager meal.

It's unbearable in here, cramped and putrid smelling. I have an all-encompassing hunger for food but when the guards present us with our rations it is infested with maggots. There is a deafening silence that pervades the air. Besides this exchange of words between Bao and Drew no one has said a word. There are a couple of other holding cells but the guards threaten us to keep quiet.

When times are crazy, when my world is spinning out of control, I've come to count on Al's appearance. Now the lack thereof is the only thing that's keeping me sane. I thank God Al doesn't have to experience this horror again. I've only been here a day compared to Al's five years. I don't know how he did it.

To keep a distance, a distraction from the cold, hard reality of where I am I dream myself away. During this time, I close my eyes and think of Al. His self-sacrifice, allowing me to save my brother even if that meant having to be locked up like an animal for five years. I wonder how he kept his sanity. I remember that he said to me that he was free, through his mind. I decide to concentrate on him and the victory that I had just attained for him. I concentrate on how happy he must be now, finally in the arms of his love. Home at last.

I see the guards standing up to attention. A Vietnamese soldier has entered into the vacinity, loudly barking orders. The guards take us out of our holding cells, making sure that they have a vigilant eye on us and that our hands are tied, unable to move. I look around wondering who my fellow prisoners could be. Some look like zombies, barely alive. There's one that stands out from the others. He looks just as tired and haggard as the rest but in his eyes I see a glint, a spark for life which nothing can break. Before I can get a better look the Vietnamese soldier's voice grabs my attention.

He parades around the circle, slapping or punching all of us. I can see Bao standing in front of Drew trying to turn the soldier's attention to the other prisoners. As the Vietnamese soldier stops in front of Drew, I hear Bao's voice trying to reason with the unidentified Vietnamese soldier but it's useless- the Vietnamese soldier looks crazed. Bao's pleads only make the crazed soldier even more angry. The soldier takes Drew into the middle of the circle that the guards have us standing around and starts to beat him. I close my eyes, not wanting to see the horror before me. I hear the haunting yells of pain from Drew. After some time, moments that make all of us cringe, the guards put us back in our holding cell. The soldier and the other guards except for Bao go outside and I can hear laughter and snickering coming from outside.

I try to get Drew to talk to me but he can barely breathe. From my medical background, I can tell that he needs intubation. After my vain attempts to reach for a pen at the desk that is currently left unattended, I try to get any of the other prisoners to reach out but they all seem too afraid of the guards returning and the consequential aftermath. Realizing what I'm trying to do the one prisoner that still has that spark in his eyes takes the pen from the desk and throws it my way. I get a better look at the other POW. The dark brown eyes, the black curls, the compact body. "Al, Al, is that you?" I ask.

"Of course it's me," he replies. "Boy kid, they must have really done a number you too, huh?"

I feel like crying but instead I concentrate on the task in front of me. I successfully place the tube into Drew's trachea and I can hear him breathing. When Bao comes near I tell him, "MASH." If Drew doesn't get to a MASH soon, then the intubation won't be worth anything. Everything hangs on how Bao will answer.

"Okay," I hear Bao say. Bao goes over to Drew's slumped form and struggles to haul him to the jeep.

"How'd you learn to do that?" Al asks with an intonation to his voice that is filled with pride.

I shrug, years and years of medical school I feel like saying. I don't even know if the body that I'm inhabiting was a doctor. So I tell him what next comes to mind, "Saw it on a TV show."

I can feel that I'm about to leap soon, so from the bottom of my heart I tell Al, "Thank you." After a moment I continue, "And Al?"

"Yeah, kid?" comes the reply.

I can feel the force gripping me forward. I don't want to leave, I want to stay here with him, to see him through this like he's done for me so many times I couldn't count.

"Believe," I manage to say before I leap.

Al

I couldn't believe my own eyes, what was happening to me? Were those bastards finally getting inside my head? Was I finally losing it? I wouldn't let that happen. I swear I saw a blue electrifying light surround him. Then he said that one word, simple, elegant and yet so powerful before he vanished. In his place was a new man, someone different than the one that was in front of me seconds earlier. It was something about the eyes, definitely the eyes. If he had gotten out of this forsaken place, I had to believe that I would.