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Aloha au ia 'oe

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     "Sam! Get out here now! SAM!"

     The sound of Al's urgent voice hit the disheveled quantum physicist like a bucket of cold water. Without a second thought, he'd bolted out of his computer chair, tripped his way over half-unpacked boxes, and frantically slid open the patio door.

     And instantly deflated.

     The way Al had sounded, Sam had thought he was in trouble. Maybe he'd had a heart attack and couldn't get up, or got bitten by a rattlesnake or, hell, someone had shown up with a gun. He was still in leaping mode. In his mind, anything that could go wrong, would go wrong, and he was waiting for Al to show up and tell him the original history so he could fix it.

     Except Sam was home, and Al was here, now, lounging in a patio chair with Annabelle and a shit-eating grin on his face.

     He looked ridiculous. Adorned in a pair of zig-zag shorts and a neon Hawaiian shirt, left open to soak in the sun, he looked like he was dressed for a New Mexican luau. Atop his head he wore an absurdly oversized straw hat, matched by a smaller--but no less comically proportioned--hat on top of Annabelle's head.

     Annabelle, of course, was his tortoise. A gift from Tina while Sam was still leaping, she'd been a loyal companion for Al, who was content with her simple life in the New Mexico desert. She was quite spoiled, for a tortoise, but she never seemed to get any ego about it. Al would say she was far more loyal than his ex wives had been, and cheaper too. Currently, she sat on a small table in the shade of a small umbrella, slowly munching on a leaf of lettuce. They made quite a pair, these two.

     And here was Sam, stubble and dark circles, dressed in old sweats and his ratty old moccasins that Al hated. His frowning face was reflected in Al's sunglasses.

     Smile widening, the Italian raised a glass decorated with an even tinier umbrella. "Ah good, you made it."

     "This is what you called me out for? What're you doing?" Sam was still catching his breath after his panicked dash to the rescue. What a hero.

     "We," Al emphasized, "are having a small vacation." He gently patted the patio chair next to him. "C'mon, Sammy, sit down."

     Sam was flabbergasted. He blinked and pushed back his reading glasses. "I...have work to do--" He suddenly remembered his annoyance. "I thought you were hurt or something! What're you doing yelling like that?"

     "Exactly the point, kiddo. This is a surprise party. For you." Al splayed out his arms. "Surprise!"

     Sam was not amused. He shuffled his moccasins grumpily over to Al. "That wasn't funny."

     "Sure it was," Al chuckled. Sam folded his arms. "Well how else was I supposed to get you out here? You've been stuck in front of that computer for so long you've gone cross-eyed." He reached up and took off Sam's reading glasses. Sam stood there nonplussed. "I've been trying to get you to take a vacation since you got back, and since you won't go, I'm bringing the vacation to you."

     Sam's arms fell to his side. He had been working too much. It had started as a way to help him adjust to coming home, to keep his mind distracted, but then he never stopped. He thought guiltily how he'd neglected Al. Now they were together, but Sam had been keeping company with files, numbers, and schematics.

     But Al was still here. He wiggled his bare toes and wagged his eyebrows, inviting him once again to join him.

     A grin crept up on Sam's face. Fine, he'd go along with this silly idea. "I don't think I'm dressed for it."

     "Ah, got you covered," Al said through his cigar. He reached behind him, pulled out a lei, and placed it around Sam's neck.

     Outstanding, it matched Sam's sweats perfectly. "How can I ever thank you?"

     "Just say aloha, Sammy," Al grinned. He jerked his head toward the chair. "Take off those ugly ass moccasins."

     Chuckling and feeling quite absurd, Sam slipped off the offending shoes and slouched down into the chair next to Al. "Aloha, Al."

     "Atta boy. Here." Grabbing another glass from beside Annabelle, his hand glided easily over to Sam. Once Sam took a sip, however, he coughed in surprise. "Kick in the butt, ain't it?"

     "I thought it was lemonade."

     "With a little something extra. It's vacation, Sam." Al gave a wink and took a generous sip of his own drink.

     The glass was wet with condensation, and the cool liquid tasted like heaven in the heat. Sam took another sip and leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes and letting himself relax. "This was a good idea," he admitted.

     "Didn't I tell you so?"

    Sam opened one eye to teasingly glare at Al, who smiled smugly at the sun. He was always so sure of himself. Why did Sam fall for it every time? Without saying anything, he slid his hand across the chairs and intertwined their fingers. For a long time, they enjoyed this perfect moment in silence. Annabelle munched away.

     "What do you think of a garden, Al?"

     "Hmm?" Al glanced over at him curiously. "A garden? What're you gonna grow?"

     "I don't know. Something simple. Something to show I was here." Sam pressed his lips together thoughtfully as he contemplated the sky. Al's fingers squeezed his reassuringly.

     "I think that sounds like a great idea."

     "It would be something to do, something that wasn't work." Sam nodded decisively.

     "You could use the tan," Al teased, "People are startin' to think I'm dating a ghost."

     "You're too scared of ghosts."

     "Smart-ass. C'mere." Al pulled Sam's hand toward him, and Sam easily got up and joined Al on his chair. It was a tight fit, and the heat continued to beat down on them, but Sam was happy to be where he was. He reached his head up for a kiss before resting it on Al's chest.

     "I like this vacation," he sighed.

     "So do I."

     Sam lifted his head again and grinned knowingly. "Aloha au ia 'oe, Al."

     Al hitched up a confused eyebrow. "Whazat mean?"

     "I love you, Al."

     Sam smiled. Al smiled back.

     "Aloha au ia 'oe, Sam."

     The sun shone on. Sam decided to take more vacations.