A few days had passed since the strange afternoon in Sandoval's office. As he had said he would Sandoval had arranged everything. The lawyers had drawn up the paperwork and the two agents had signed it.
Liam still remembered the comment one of the lawyers had made to him as he escorted them out of the building. She had said it must be wonderful to have a colleague that you trusted so much that you would ask them to do something like this for you.
If only that were true, thought Liam longingly.
He smiled when he thought of the look on Augur's face when he had told him. He had looked like he had swallowed a live fish! The few Resistance members that had been told, like Drs. Belman and Park, were not exactly enthusiastic about the situation either, but they all admitted that realistically none of them could fulfil the role for him. Too many questions.
One positive result of the entire situation had been a gradual thawing of relations between the two agents. It was highly unlikely that they would ever become close friends, and barring a miracle Liam didn't see how Sandoval could ever be told of their true relationship; but a casual friend was better than nothing.
Liam glanced at his watch and swore under his breath. He was supposed to be meeting Sandoval for lunch in five minutes. Quickly saving the files he had been working on he snatched up his coat and dashed out of his office. Thankfully he was meeting Sandoval at the coffee bar up the street, he shouldn't be too late.
However, as he approached his destination he saw several emergency vehicles and an ambulance on site. Rushing forward and pulling his ID he approached one of the police officers questioning the members of the milling crowd.
He was about to ask what had happened when he caught a glimpse of the figure being loaded onto a stretcher.
Running forward and leaning over the stretcher, he barked out, "What happened to him? Answer me!"
The paramedics stared at him and a nearby officer approached the small group, saying, "Who the hell are you? Get off the scene and let these people do their jobs!"
Quickly losing his patience, Liam turned to the officer with fire in his eyes. "Companion agent Liam Kincaid. This man is my colleague and when you check his medical records you'll find I'm listed as his emergency contact! I was due to meet him for lunch in about five minutes. Now I'll ask again! What happened here, and more importantly, how is he?!"
Upon hearing the identities of the man in front of him and the man lying on the stretcher the officer had gone slightly pale. Companion agents were not known for dealing lightly with local authorities who got in their way.
"Sir, I'm sorry, we didn't realise who you were. The other man - Agent Sandoval, is it? - was about to cross the street when he saw a car careening towards a little girl that had just run into the middle of the road after a ball that she had dropped. According to witnesses he pushed the girl to safety but was struck by the car himself."
At that point one of the paramedics who had been tending a nasty looking injury on Sandoval's left leg continued with the report. "Agent Sandoval has suffered multiple contusions and abrasions. His leg has been broken and yes that is bone you see there. It'll have to be reset and soon. We are also concerned about the very real possibility of concussion.
"You say you're his emergency contact? Get in the ambulance; we're going to need your authorisation for some procedures."
Liam nodded to the paramedic, but before getting in the ambulance, he turned to the police officer and asked several quick questions.
"Was the girl OK? He'll ask.
"Did the car stop? Did you get the plate number, any evidence?
"Good. I'll expect a full copy of your report and regular updates on the investigation sent to me, is that clear?"
Upon seeing the officer's nod of confirmation, Liam turned and climbed into the ambulance. While sitting at Sandoval's side he pulled out his global and informed both Zo'or and Da'an of the situation. He then contacted Companion Security to arrange temporary fill-ins for both himself and Sandoval.
The next few hours in the hospital passed in a blur. He signed all the forms placed in front of him, pleading with the nurses to keep him informed.
His air of vulnerability caught at their caring natures and they made sure to keep an eye on him, forcing him to rest and have a bite to eat while he waited on news of his friend.
Hours later Sandoval was moved to a private room and Liam took up residence on a chair at his bedside. Nobody tried to move him.
Eventually Sandoval began to stir, glancing round the room he spotted Liam slumped in the chair.
"Liam. What happened?"
As Liam started to explain it all came back to him and he asked, "The little girl? Is she...?"
"She's fine, Ron. You saved her. Now get some rest, I'll be here when you wake up. Don't worry about your duties - we're both on temporary standdown; both Zo'or's and Da'an's orders.
"You are a hero, you know. The press is having a field day with the story of how one of the mysterious and unapproachable Companion agents has saved the life of a little girl nearly at the expense of his own.
Liam was sitting on the park bench - well, sprawled would be more accurate - with his face tilted up towards the sun. Sandoval approached him, smiling indulgently. In the months that had followed his injuries saving that little girl he had spent much more time with Liam. He had found him to be a strange person; the separation of adult and child seemed blurred with him.
Liam had seen much of the darkness of humanity, but somehow throughout it all he never seemed to lose the innocent wonder of a child. How he could still look at people and expect the best and not the worst Sandoval couldn't fathom. He admired the trait, though; he had lost that ability long ago.
"Hey, Liam, are you ready to go?"
Liam blinked and looked at Sandoval.
"Five more minutes, Ron, please? It's a glorious day!"
Sandoval laughed and said, "Liam, sometimes I could swear you were just a kid!"
This statement caused a brief shadow to cross Liam's eyes, but it vanished so quickly Sandoval thought he had imagined it.
The two men made their way to the Washington Embassy to pick up Da'an and Zo'or. A new Taelon/Human hospital facility was being opened in Los Angeles and both Companions were scheduled to attend. They arrived at the Embassy to find that Da'an would be making the trip alone, Zo'or had been called to a meeting of the UN.
The ceremony went flawlessly and the facility opened on time. Da'an returned to the Mothership, flown by a Volunteer. He had ordered both Sandoval and Kincaid to take a break.
"It has come to my attention that you have both been negligent." His statement had shocked both agents; they tried to protest, but Da'an continued, "Neither of you have taken any time to rest in the past month." Da'an's gentle smile robbed his rebuke of any sting. "You are both ordered to stand down for the next two days. Relax. We expect you both to come back at peak efficiency. Understood?"
Neither agent had particularly wanted a holiday but they knew better that to argue with Da'an, so they had nodded their agreement.
The next day Liam had insisted on visiting the beach. Sandoval had given a long suffering sigh but finally agreed.
In the end he had enjoyed himself. It had been hard not to. Liam's infectious good humour had affected all those around them; in fact, it had ended up developing into an impromptu picnic. Sandoval was surprised to find he had enjoyed himself; he thought he had forgotten how.
The next day they had arranged to go to the symphony. Sandoval had been shocked to find that Liam had never attended one before and had surprised him with tickets.
The elevator had reached the hotel lobby and the doors had opened just at the same time the earthquake struck.
Both men were flung back into the elevator by the force of the tremors, and then all hell broke loose. The strongest tremor so far caused debris from the upper balcony of the lobby to start raining down on the floor and the front of the elevator was quickly buried. Not that Liam or Sandoval noticed; both had been knocked unconscious.
If Liam had been awake he would have been horrified to notice the small stream of blood emerging from Sandoval's ear.
Liam regained consciousness first and had found himself trapped in one of his own nightmares. The sight of Sandoval lying unconscious on the floor of the elevator beside him had frightened him badly enough, but when he had seen the blood that had started to crust round Sandoval's ear he had been thrust back to the time when his mother had died.
"Oh God, no! Please, not him too."
He reached over to check on Sandoval just as the agent began to stir. Helping him sit up, he resisted the urge to let out a cry of frustration. How could this be happening again?
Sandoval was slow to come round, but he realised soon enough what was happening to him again. From the look on Liam's face, he knew it too. Putting his own feelings aside, he realised he'd have to help Liam deal with this. He remembered the look on his face when he had held the dying Beckett in his arms.
"Liam, help me up. We have to see how badly we are trapped in here."
"Sandoval, you shouldn't be moving. You know your CVI is starting to break down. I'll see how far this debris goes. We have to get out of here fast if we are to stand a chance of getting your re-implanted with a new CVI."
There was a shaft of light breaking through the debris in front of them. It was near the top of the heap of metal and brick. Liam tentatively started to climb to the top to have a look out and see how firmly it was entrenched or if there was any sign of help outside.
"Liam, stop! It's too dangerous! We have no idea how unstable this debris is! Wait for help."
"You may not have that long! I've got to do something."
"There's no point. You know Zo'or will never authorise another CVI for me, he'll view this as the perfect opportunity to be rid of me. Besides, I don't want to be re-implanted."
"What?! How can you say that?"
"Liam, I never wanted to be re-implanted the last time my CVI broke down. My motivational imperative may be gone now but I still remember everything I did while under its influence. I can never make amends for the things I did. I don't want to be re-implanted, I won't take the chance that I come under the influence of another MI, even for the short amount of time it would function before starting to degrade. Never again!"
Liam bowed his head at Sandoval's words. His heart was full of pride that the other man would willingly accept death rather than revert back to a Taelon puppet; however at the same time his heart was breaking. Unless he thought of something, he was going to have to watch another parent die.
"Liam, I'm sorry, but no."
Liam gave a sigh and slumped down on the floor of the elevator with his back resting on its far wall. Sandoval slumped down beside him. Neither of them said a word.
As time went on Sandoval started to lose strength and gradually he started to lean against the other man for support. Liam sat there with his father's head resting on his shoulder and silent tears streaming down his face.
Just a couple of hours had passed since Sandoval's adamant refusal to consider a new CVI, but to Liam they had seemed like an eternity. He had sat there gently supporting his father wishing for a miracle.
Sandoval let out a gasp of pain and Liam flinched to hear it. He settled his father more firmly against his chest and started to rub his hands on his arms in soothing strokes, murmuring as he did so, "Easy, Dad, I'm here. You're safe, it's OK..."
This seemed to relax him so he kept up the soothing litany; that is, till Sandoval, finally registering the words that had been spoken, asked, "What do you mean, 'Dad'? Liam? Liam! What do you mean?"
Liam closed his eyes momentarily. How could he have been so careless? Because he wanted to comfort his father, that was why. Would he accept the truth though?
Trying to ease the tension he had felt in the other man, Sandoval quipped, "A slightly more articulate answer would be preferable."
Liam gave a strained smile, acknowledging his effort. Instead of talking, he reached forward and grabbed Sandoval's hand, raising his own he placed palm against palm.
Sandoval's mind flashed back to that moment in the cave when he had looked down to see Liam with the dying Beckett in his arms. Then his full attention focussed on what was happening, what Liam was showing him. Oh dear Lord! Could it be true? He looked up into Liam's anguished eyes and found his answer.
"I'm so sorry I couldn't tell you before..."
Sandoval sighed. It explained so much. This was what he had sensed between Liam and Beckett, this was why Liam had saved him so many times. Seeing the pain in Liam's eyes and the fear of rejection he did the first thing that came to mind. With a shaking hand he reached out to place his hand on Liam's cheek and say, "Thank you for telling me, son."
Liam gave a shaky smile and leaned forward to place a kiss on top of his head, a benediction.
They spent the next few hours talking quietly. Sandoval wanted to know everything about his son and Liam wanted to get to know his father. As the time went by, though, Sandoval grew weaker. The malfunctioning CVI caused him more and more pain. At one point he clutched at his head moaning in pain, and Liam cried out in fear.
"This has gone far enough. Let me help! I can take at least some of the pain away, let me please. This is killing me, too..."
Sandoval didn't have the strength to resist. His eyes widened when he saw the light emanating from Liam's palms. It was one thing for Liam to tell him about his abilities, it was quite another thing to see it for himself.
Liam placed one hand on his father's forehead and the other over his heart. Almost immediately Sandoval felt all the pain begin to ease. He tried to get Liam to stop and then he saw the look of determination on his son's face.
"Liam, what are you doing? Stop!"
He barely heard Liam's response.
"Not this time. I'm sorry, I can't lose you too. You are going to get better. We both survive this or neither of us do."
He then focussed more of his energy on his father as his battle to heal him began.
"Liam, no! Stop, please, it's too dangerous!"
Sandoval's plea went unheeded and then he could no longer speak. He felt the energy pouring into him from his son; the battle to heal him was underway.
It was Sandoval's turn to sit and worry. Over twenty minutes ago Liam had finally released him. He had looked up into his father's eyes and smiled before lapsing into unconsciousness.
What he had done was amazing. Sandoval felt reinvigorated. The tearing pain in his head had gone, he truly believed he was healed. He had a chance to begin again. If Liam woke up! There was no way he could do this himself, he needed Liam and Liam needed him.
"Liam, please. It's time to wake up. You're starting to scare me. What was the point of saving my life if you aren't going to be in it?"
Nothing, no response. Sandoval closed his eyes and bowed his head in despair. Then he heard something. Quickly looking up, he heaved a sigh of relief. Liam was waking up. He hugged his son, murmuring dire threats as to what would happen if he ever pulled a stunt like that again. Liam grinned.
"What are you smiling at?"
"My first lecture from my Dad," said Liam, laughing.
Once the initial elation had died down, they both realised they had some planning to do. When they were found, what story were they going to tell?
"We go to Doctor Belman. She knows about me. She can check me out and stop you from all this worrying, honestly I'm fine! Also, she can check you out. She's never quite forgiven herself for her role in your previous re-implantation, it was the only way at the time though, to save your life."
Sandoval nodded his agreement just as they heard the sound of rescue workers and equipment moving the debris, they had been found at last.
Over the protests of the paramedics on site they had insisted on returning to their own doctor in Washington DC. Considering neither had any apparent injury, reluctant permission had been given.
Dr Belman had been astonished to hear their story, but she had pronounced them both fit and well. In fact she had announced with a delighted smile on her face that she had never seen them look happier.
The Resistance had been less than pleased at the turn of events in their relationship but when Sandoval had revealed his secret they had reluctantly welcomed him to their ranks. His secret, the one fact that Liam had never shared with the Resistance, was that he had been an undercover operative for ODK. Unfortunately at the time nobody had known about the motivational imperative and an entire ODK cell had been lost to its effects on Sandoval. After his MI had broken down Sandoval had resumed his initial mission. He had been unsure how to convince ODK of his sincerity, maybe the Resistance could act as the intermediary?
Da'an had been horrified when their enforced vacation had almost resulted in their deaths. The two men had reported to his office as he had ordered and he had been stunned. They looked relaxed, happy and at peace, whatever their experience had been they had both benefited from it. They returned to duty.
The first time they both had a free weekend they had done something that was long overdue. They visited Beckett's grave in Ireland.
Each man gazed down at the grave stone. They had each visited this place alone, today was the first time they had been here together since her funeral. Each had a tear in his eye as they placed flowers on the grave.
Liam spoke quietly and said, "We're together now, Mother. I hope you are looking down on us and smiling. We miss you so much."
Sandoval placed a comforting hand on his shoulder and they turned and left the cemetery.