Augur glanced up from the computer screen to see Liam standing by the elevator. "What is it, Liam?" he asked.
"I need some advice," the younger man said, a bit hesitantly.
Augur looked at him curiously. It had been a while since Liam had asked him for any advice - especially since Pratt. "About what?"
"Umm..." Liam came down the steps and then stopped.
"C'mon, Liam, what is it?"
Augur sighed in exasperation. "Spill it, Liam!"
Liam shifted uncomfortably for a moment, and then blurted out, "It's Sandoval's birthday in two days and I want to arrange a surprise party for him but I don't know how or..."
"Whoa!" Augur said, raising one hand to stop the sudden flow of words. That wasn't like Liam. "Hold on... you're telling me that you want to throw Sandoval a surprise party?"
"What's wrong with that?" Liam demanded defensively.
"Liam, this is Sandoval we're talking about here. You know, the bad guy? Zo'or's stooge? The guy who's tried to kill you more than once?"
Liam's expression turned stubborn. "He's my father."
Augur sighed again and leaned back in his chair. "What is it with you?" he asked. "You've never treated - or regarded, for that matter - Sandoval as a father before. Why now?"
There was a short pause, and then Liam shrugged. "There are reasons. But that still doesn't answer the question about how to arrange the surprise party. Do you have any suggestions?"
"Well, generally surprise parties - any type of birthday parties, actually - are attended by friends. Does Sandoval actually have any friends?"
Liam nodded absently. "Friends... I can do that. What else?"
"Well, you'll need a cake," Augur continued. It looked as though Liam was actually serious about this. Well, let him have his fun, the computer genius thought. He doesn't get enough of it. "And candles... Didn't Sandoval or Beckett ever have a surprise party before?"
Liam's expression grew distant for a moment as he accessed his parents' memories. Then he shook his head. "No. And anyway, giving a surprise party for an adult is different than doing one for a child."
"Okaay... Well, let's see... Friends, cake, candles... You'll need gifts, of course... and some sort of excuse to get him to wherever you're going to have it."
Liam smiled. "Great! Thanks, Augur!" he added, and before Augur could say anything else, the younger man was in the elevator and heading up.
Augur sighed and shook his head. How the hell had he come to this? Giving advice to a one year old on how to plan a party...
And what did he mean by 'there are reasons'? What kind of reasons?
Shaking his head again, he turned back to his computer.
Da'an glanced up, surprised, as his Protector entered the room. It was quite early; usually Liam arrived closer to eight o'clock. "Yes, Major?" he inquired.
"It's Sandoval's birthday tomorrow," Liam said, wandering over and sitting down at his desk. "I'd like to hold a surprise party for him here, if you wouldn't mind."
"A surprise party?" Da'an asked, feeling curious.
Liam nodded. "I've invited some of the Volunteers, a few of his people from the FBI, and I'd like you and Zo'or to be there too. I think Sandoval could use a bit of cheering up."
"I would be honoured," Da'an replied. "I have never been to a surprise party before."
"Neither have I," Liam admitted. "But I think it's the perfect thing for Sandoval." He paused. "Do you think Zo'or would be willing to come?"
"I do not know," Da'an said. He'd been wondering the same thing. "I will ask him."
"Thanks, Da'an," Liam said, smiling in delight before turning his attention to the pile of paperwork left on his desk from last week.
Liam settled down in bed and pulled the covers up. He was really looking forward to tomorrow.
Augur and Renee - not to mention Doors - would be horrified if they knew what he was planning. But ever since he had first seen Sandoval in the hospital, and his father had started talking about family, Liam had realized that he wanted Sandoval to know about him. Ha'gel was dead; Siobhan Beckett was dead; the only parent he had left now was Sandoval. And he wanted that, wanted to have a real family relationship.
But he could hardly just blurt out the truth about their relationship to Sandoval. If he wanted Sandoval to accept him - really accept him - he had to move slowly. And he was going to take step one tomorrow.
He looked over at the small night-table by the end of his bed, smiled at the two wrapped presents sitting there, and rubbed his left hand to get rid of the residual ache from the unaccustomed use.
He was going to make absolutely certain that Sandoval had a good day tomorrow.
Sandoval looked up as his door opened, and almost growled as Major Kincaid stepped in. He wasn't in the mood to play games with the other man at the moment.
"What do you want, Major?" he snapped.
"Da'an wants to see you," Kincaid replied.
Kincaid shrugged, indicating that he was ignorant of the reasoning behind this sudden request. "He's already cleared it with Zo'or. I'm to take you to the Embassy."
Sandoval gritted his teeth as he stood up. "Fine," he grumbled.
Kincaid gave him a puzzled look, but to Sandoval's relief, didn't say anything as they headed for the shuttle bays.
Once they were in the shuttle and had departed the mothership, however... "Is anything wrong, Sandoval?" Kincaid asked.
"No, Major, nothing's wrong," Sandoval replied, managing to keep his voice calm with an effort. "However, I do have a great deal of work to get done..."
"Don't worry, I'm sure it'll all be there when you get back," Kincaid said, in a reassuring tone.
Is he trying to be irritating? Sandoval wondered.
Or is it just the fact that today is not a good day?
"I suggest you concentrate on your piloting, Major," he said coolly.
Liam worried at his lower lip as he set the co-ordinates for inter-dimensional. He hadn't counted on Sandoval being in such a bad mood today when he'd made his plans.
I hope this isn't going to ruin the party, he thought anxiously, as he prepared to make the jump to ID space. With a quick glance back at Sandoval to make sure his father was prepared, he activated the ID engines.
Please, he thought desperately, directing the thought out to anyone who might be listening, please let him enjoy it.
The rest of the shuttle trip was spent in silence, to Sandoval's relief. He was well aware of the fact that he was in a bad mood, and was feeling a bit guilty about taking it out on Kincaid.
While it was true that he didn't particularly care for the major, ever since his hospitalization, Sandoval had been aware of the fact that Kincaid was starting to make overtures of friendship. It had been a surprise - he knew very well that the major had ties to the Resistance, although it was something he'd never bothered to mention to Zo'or, and the Resistance saw him as an enemy - but a very pleasant one. As a result, he'd started responding to those overtures. He didn't really want to ruin that all now.
As Kincaid brought the shuttle down in front of the Embassy, Sandoval leaned forward slightly in his seat. "Major... Liam..."
Kincaid turned and smiled slightly. "Just a sec... I've got to let Da'an know we're here." Turning back to the controls, he activated the datastream. "Da'an, Agent Sandoval and I are here."
"Very good, Major," Da'an replied. "Please bring Agent Sandoval to my office."
"Of course, Da'an." Kincaid shut off the datastream and dispelled the shuttle's virtual glass, and then turned back to Sandoval. "Coming?"
"Of course," Sandoval answered, a bit surprised to realize that Kincaid had already accepted his unspoken apology.
Leaving the shuttle, they entered the Embassy, and walked toward Da'an's office.
It was only when they reached the entrance to the office that Sandoval realized that something wasn't quite right. The room was dark, which shouldn't have happened in a Taelon building; it brought back unpleasant memories of when he and Boone had had to fight off the virus that had infected the Taelons' systems.
Turning to Kincaid, he began, "Major..." and then noticed that Kincaid appeared to be fighting a grin.
"C'mon, Sandoval," Kincaid said, and before he could protest, the younger man pushed him gently in.
The instant he stepped over the threshold, the lights came on, and a crowd of people - 19 of them, including Da'an - shouted, "Happy Birthday, Agent Sandoval!"
Blinking in surprise, Sandoval turned to look at Kincaid, who was now grinning openly, an expression of pride on his face. It was obvious who had arranged all this. "Major..." he growled.
Kincaid's grin got wider. "Happy Birthday, Sandoval," he said.
Silently vowing to find out exactly when Kincaid's birthday was and get his own back, Sandoval turned back to the guests and pasted a smile on his face.
Sandoval yawned as he walked into his office the next morning. The party had actually turned out to be quite enjoyable; Kincaid had managed to invite a combination of FBI agents and Volunteers, all of them close acquaintances or friends of his, who had mixed quite well together. Even Zo'or had shown up for a little bit, which had definitely been a shocker.
And after it was over and everyone else had left, both Da'an and Kincaid had presented him with gifts. From Da'an he had received - authorized by Zo'or - two week's worth of vacation; something he hadn't had since becoming a Companion Protector. He already had an idea of what he wanted to do with that time. And from Kincaid...
From Kincaid, he had received a first edition copy of one of his favourite stories, Oliver Twist - he couldn't help but wonder how on earth the major had gotten a hold of it - and a small photo album. There had been a brief note inside that said, 'For the pictures in your wallet. --Liam'
He'd gone home feeling oddly happy, in a way he hadn't felt since Boone had had DeeDee killed.
But now it was time to get back to work.
He'd sat down at his desk and picked up one of the files on top before he noticed the small, wrapped box to one side of his paperwork.
Picking it up, Sandoval weighed it in his hand - it didn't weigh very much; and then his eyes widened in shock as he noticed the envelope under it. Written across the front was 'Ronald Sandoval'.
Opening the envelope, he pulled out the card. It was very simple, merely a picture of a birthday cake and the words 'Happy Birthday' on the front. Opening it up, he read the message inside; and he couldn't stop the gasp from escaping.
In the same childish scrawl as on the front of the envelope, the message read, 'Happy Birthday, Father.'
Sandoval stared at the card for another moment or two, unable to move, and then quickly slipped it back into the envelope and put the envelope into his case. He wasn't going to let anyone find out about this.
Then, with some trepidation, he unwrapped the present - and had to bite his lower lip to keep the tears from coming.
The box contained two pictures, carefully placed in simple, silver frames. The first was of a baby wrapped in a light blue blanket, and the second was of a boy, perhaps four or five years old, sitting down with a Taelon puzzle in his hands and a very serious expression on his face.
His son. It had to be.
Sandoval carefully slipped the pictures into the case with the envelope, and then sat up in his chair and stared straight ahead, not seeing what was in front of him, for several minutes.
He would finish the work that was on his desk, and then he would take his two weeks off.
And he would find his son.