Disclaimers in Pt. 1.
Liam opened his eyes and blinked at the sunlight pouring in through his window. Judging from its brightness, it looked as though it was going to be a beautiful day today.
Pushing back his bedcovers, he sat up and stretched - and it was only as he brought his arms back down that he remembered both the feeling that had followed him into sleep last night, and the fact that he shouldn't have been able to do what he'd just done without a great deal of pain.
Carefully pulling the collar of his shirt away from his shoulder, he checked the place the bullet had impacted.
All that was left was a small round scar.
He then tried gently moving his shoulder - both up and down and forwards and back - and felt not even the slightest twinge. And it wasn't that the area was numb; he could feel his fingers when he pressed carefully against the scar, but there was no pain. Both soft tissue and bone had just healed overnight.
Liam felt almost like screaming; he buried his face in his hands in an effort to stave it off. Why was this happening to him - and why now, of all times?! Didn't he have enough on his plate already?
Admittedly, if he'd been anyone else, Liam suspected he'd have been delighted about the sudden rapid healing, and the fact that he wouldn't have to spend another few weeks in a sling. As it was, however, all this seemed to be doing was increasing his differences from humanity.
The gash on his arm from the crossbow bolt hadn't been serious - most of the problem had been blood loss and the fact that it had aggravated the damage to his shoulder even further... so he'd been able to finally decide it was mostly a simple increase in his ability to heal quickly. His shoulder, on the other hand... there had been a great deal more damage done to it, and it should have taken at least a few more weeks of healing, even at his usual rapid pace, before it could be used again.
Not to mention this was going to cause untold problems with the Taelons if they got wind of it....
As long as I'm careful, they shouldn't, he told himself firmly a minute later. I'll just have to get Dr. Park's help and wear a sling around them for a short while. After all I've kept bigger secrets than rapid healing for a longer period of time....
Besides, he added to himself, as he heard movement downstairs, Sandoval won't be after me any more; he'll be helping me! Between the two of us, we should be able to deal with anything the Taelons dish out about this.
Of course, he still had to show his father what had happened....
Quickly getting dressed - delight at the lack of pain and ease of movement he had again making him feel somewhat better about this latest change - he headed down to the kitchen where his father was frying bacon and eggs. "'Morning," he said, sitting down at the kitchen table.
His father glanced over at him. "Good morn-- Liam, where's your sling?"
Liam took a deep breath and let it out in a heavy sigh. "Well, that's the thing... you remember what happened to the gash in my arm from the crossbow bolt?"
"Of course.... So your shoulder is healed now as well?" Sandoval said, turning back to the stove just in time to rescue the egg that was currently in the pan.
"Yes," Liam replied. He fidgeted in his seat for a moment, debating with himself... but at this point, a new perspective would probably be just the thing he needed. On some of his problems, at least - he still didn't want to mention his fear of the changes he was going through. "It was itching yesterday afternoon and evening... and then just before I fell asleep it felt like a burning spear was being driven through it - but I couldn't wake up from it."
"Has anything like this ever happened before?" was his father's next question.
Liam shook his head - again pleased he could do it without pain. "I guess..." he murmured after a moment, thinking back over the past week and a half, "the closest it comes to - in terms of the sensation - was what was happening to my shaqarava last week."
"And what was that?" Sandoval prompted, as he cracked the last egg into the frying pan; and listened, as Liam told him about his shaqarava.
How the first time Liam had used them been to destroy the Jaridian replicant underneath the Embassy....
"I always wondered about that," Sandoval muttered quietly as he flipped the egg.
...How the only times he'd been able to consciously control them had been his suicide attempt when he thought he was being driven mad....
Sandoval went pale at that, remembering his role in that particular plot, and focused his gaze on the oven as he took out the heated plates and food, not wanting to meet his son's eyes.
...And the time in Maiya's dimension to show the alternate Da'an what their world was like....
"That's one story I definitely expect you to tell me," Sandoval said, putting the plates down on the table and handing Liam a fork and knife, indicating he was to serve himself.
"Only if you promise not to kill Doors because of it next time we see him," his son countered, piling two eggs, three pieces of toast, and several slices of both bacon and tomato on his plate - and then refused to explain why he should promise, instead returning to his narrative about his shaqarava.
...How he'd thought they had disappeared after something that had happened last October....
Involving the Jaridian probe and Operation Dark Knight's base at Mount Weather? Sandoval wondered, but didn't ask out loud.
...How when he'd woken up on Thursday morning a week and a half ago, just after the first assassination attempt, they'd been itching, though he hadn't consciously noticed it at the time....
...How last Saturday, when Sandoval had pointed out that he was scratching his palms, he'd looked and seen that his shaqarava were a very dark red....
"Is that why you were wearing those gloves?" Sandoval asked at that.
His son nodded. "When I say 'dark red', I mean just a bit lighter than that." He pointed at a well-done piece of bacon. "They would have been very, very noticeable."
...How when the bomb in his desk had exploded, Liam had known there wasn't time to escape, and so he'd reacted on instinct, raising his hands to use his shaqarava defensively; and how suddenly he'd felt as though a burning spear was going through them, and a moment later they'd activated....
"And saved both our lives, while startling the hell out of me," Sandoval said. When Liam gave him a half-startled, half-curious look, he added, "I just didn't expect it, that's all. I knew you undoubtedly had shaqarava, of course," he decided not to mention the dreams, "but I really hadn't expected you to demonstrate that fact in such an... unequivocal fashion."
...And how after Lt. Cress and Sgt. Ramsey had left him in Sandoval's office in the Embassy, Liam had activated his shaqarava again - consciously, this time.
"Of course, if I'd been thinking, I never would have done that," his son finished off. "I was already tired enough from the drain caused by defending us against the bomb; and at that point, I didn't realize you knew who I was, and you could have walked in at any time."
"Quite true," Sandoval agreed, frowning. That was another thing he was going to have to discuss with Liam - preferably before this vacation was over - his dangerous tendency toward recklessness. At least now that he knew how old Liam really was, he understood the recklessness somewhat better - he'd never really understood how a thirty year old veteran of the S.I. War could be so careless. "So, your shaqarava felt the same way just before you used them at the Embassy as your shoulder did last night?"
"Pretty much, yes," Liam replied.
"And you've never had anything else like this happen to you before?" Sandoval continued.
Liam shook his head. "Never. I mean... I've always been quick to heal, but not like this. The estimates Dr. Park gave for how long the healing would take were based on my regular rate of healing."
Sandoval's frown deepened as he studied his son. Liam was... nervous, he decided after a minute's observation. Or scared, came the sudden thought. He looked much as he had during their discussion on the mothership Wednesday morning, before Sandoval had managed to reassure Liam that he did indeed want a father/son relationship.
So, the question is - is he more scared of the potential Taelon reactions, or is this another part of the issue surrounding his Kimera heritage?
"Well, it should be easy enough to conceal from the Taelons, assuming you're careful," Sandoval said out loud, his tone purposefully casual. "Continue to wear a sling and don't use your right arm anywhere you can be observed by other people, and you should be fine."
"I know," Liam replied quietly, looking down at his plate. He'd finished about half its contents, Sandoval estimated, over the course of telling his story. "It's just...." He started fidgeting again.
So it's not the Taelons worrying him, Sandoval translated that to mean. He thought for a long moment. Is it time to start pushing a bit? He's already told me - trusted me with - a great deal... a surprising amount, in fact, considering that it's only Sunday, and I've only know who he really is for the past week. Can I risk that by pushing him?
Continuing to study his son, Sandoval took in the hints of fear that were still visible on Liam's face, and made his decision. I don't think I have that much of a choice. He's scared of something, and until I find out what it is, I can't help him. And I need to help him with this before we have to go back. If he's still worrying over something after we return, he's much more likely to get careless - and I will not lose my son the same way I lost DeeDee and Siobhan.
"What's wrong, Liam?"
Liam looked vaguely surprised, and then shrugged. "Nothing..." he muttered.
And the one-year-old makes his appearance again.... "Something is wrong, Liam. You look..." Sandoval hesitated for a moment, trying to think of a better work to use than 'scared', "...upset. Why?"
Liam continued to fidget, moving his fork aimlessly around his plate, mixing egg and bits of bacon. "I.... It's.... It isn't anything important."
Sandoval leaned back in his chair and pushed his own - empty - plate away. "If it has you upset, then it's important," he replied firmly.
Liam's fidgeting was growing worse. Abruptly, he pushed his chair back from the table, stood up, and started pacing between the table and the door to the hall. "It's not important," he repeated tensely.
Was it a mistake to broach this now? Sandoval wondered, as he watched his son move back and forth. Should I have waited until later? Not that he could back away from the situation now - that would only cause more damage. He needed to make it clear to his son that Liam could tell him anything.
"Look at you, Liam," he said, keeping his tone firm but making his voice somewhat quieter. He'd already discovered Thursday and Friday that speaking quietly and gently got the best response from Liam - it seemed to reassure him somehow - and while Sandoval felt the current situation called for firmness, he didn't want to upset his son any further. "The fact that you're upset is obvious, which means that it is not unimportant - at least, it isn't to you, which means that it isn't to me either."
Liam froze at that, staring wide-eyed at him.
Sandoval ignored his reaction for the moment, although he made a mental note of it. "So I would like to know what is wrong." He paused, eyeing his son thoughtfully, and then added - purposefully increasing the pressure, a tactic that always served him well in interrogations, though he hated having to use it against his son, "Why is the fact that your shoulder healed scaring you so much?"
It worked, much as it did when used in interrogation sessions - except this time, he had merely taken advantage of the pressure Liam had been putting on himself.
"Because it means I'm still changing!" Liam shouted.
'Still changing'? Sandoval wondered, as he stood up and walked over to where Liam was standing by the door, looking dazed by his own outburst. Does this have anything to do with the changing he mentioned when he was feverish?
"How are you 'still changing', Liam?" he asked gently, carefully gripping his son's arm and steering him back to the table. "Here - sit down and talk to me... please. What do you mean?"
Liam obediently sat down, feeling dazed and numb. He hadn't meant to blurt that out, but his father had pushed and it had just... come out, seemingly on its own.
"Liam?" his father prompted again.
"I... I thought I had lost my shaqarava," he said blankly. "They were gone, and... and the memories were more distant, harder to access...." Liam paused for a long moment, keeping his gaze fixed on the grain of the table. There was a darker swirl of wood in one corner - where a branch had grown, Liam suspected....
"Go on, Liam," his father said, in that oddly gentle tone of voice that Liam found himself responding to instinctively.
"I.... I thought.... I...."
"What, Liam? What did you think?"
"I thought I was becoming more human!" Again, it came bursting out, independent of his desire not to reveal it. "I thought I was finally getting a chance to be normal!"
Liam winced at the raw sound of his voice, not daring to look up at his father - not after that outburst.
They sat in silence for several long minutes, and then Sandoval sighed. "Liam... why would you want to be 'more human'?" he asked.
That startled Liam - enough that his head jerked up and he stared at his father in shock. "What?"
"Why would you want to be 'more human'?" his father repeated. "Is there something wrong with being part-Kimera?"
"N-no..." Liam said slowly, feeling suddenly uncertain. During most of their conversations over the past few days, he'd been able to guess at where his father was going with his lines of questioning... but not this time. This time, he couldn't tell what the point was.
"So if there's nothing wrong with being part-Kimera, I'm not sure I understand what the problem is," his father said, looking rather bewildered. It was an expression Liam didn't think he'd ever seen on Sandoval's face before.
"Liam?" his father prompted. "Explain it to me?"
"I just want to be normal!" he repeated. He wasn't sure why Sandoval had been so determined to get him to talk about it, but now that he'd started, Liam found he couldn't seem to stop. All the frustration he'd felt his entire life about who and what he was felt like a huge weight on his chest, and he wanted it off. Now.
Sandoval studied him carefully for a long moment, and then asked, "What is 'normal'?"
"Huh?" It was Liam's turn to be confused. What was his father talking about?
"'Normal' is a matter of perception," his father said calmly. "Everyone I've ever met has had a somewhat different definition of what's normal. So what is yours?"
Liam blinked, the built-up frustration and anger he was feeling momentarily derailed by the question. He'd never really considered that before....
His father waited patiently for several minutes while Liam considered the matter. As he thought about it, the frustration came surging back, and he stood up again and returned to pacing. The words seemed to come easier when he was moving around.
"Normal is having a childhood that lasts years rather than hours," Liam began. He was distantly aware that his voice was tight with frustration, and his footsteps seemed to pound out a rhythm in time with his words. "Normal is not being able to shoot blasts of energy from your hands. Normal is having two parents, not three, both of whom know who you are from the moment you're born. Normal is not having your parents' memories showing you how to behave. Normal is not having to lead a double life from the time you're two days old. Normal is--"
Liam managed to catch himself before he finished his last sentence with the way he really felt. There were some things that he really didn't want to share with Sandoval - with anyone, for that matter - and that was right at the top of the list. "Normal is being human."
His father frowned - a thoughtful expression, rather than an upset one. "And what is 'normal' for Kimera?" he asked.
"I don't know," Liam replied quietly, dropping back down into his chair. The impetus to pace had vanished with his last statement, and he found himself feeling confused and uncertain.
Sandoval eyed him carefully. "I thought you said... you had our memories?"
Liam hesitated, then nodded slowly. "Yes, but...." He bit at his lower lip. "I don't really... I can't really access Ha'gel's memories," he said slowly. "Not well. I've always had more trouble with Ha'gel's than with yours, and more trouble with yours than with Mother's."
"But on Friday you were able to tell me - in detail - about what happened to Ha'gel from the time he was released from the lifepod," his father pointed out.
Liam sighed softly. "I-- It's--" He took a deep breath. "I told you... I'm changing. I've never been able to access them so clearly before." He wrapped his arms around his torso, tightening them unconsciously. "I knew... the gist of what he was doing and thinking - just like I knew the gists of your life, and Mother's - but only in a very vague, distant fashion. Even now...." He shook his head, biting his lip again. "There's just so much I don't know...."
Sandoval studied his son carefully. Liam's moods and reactions were flipping back and forth so rapidly that he wasn't entirely certain that continuing this line of questioning was a wise idea. Nonetheless, he couldn't just leave Liam hanging like this.
"How do you... 'access' the memories?" he asked after a moment's thought about the direction he wanted to take this conversation.
The request seemed to distract Liam; he blinked and looked at Sandoval in confusion. "What do you mean?"
"You've been talking about 'accessing' our memories - how do you do that?" Sandoval elaborated. "Is it a matter of consciously recalling a memory, or do they suddenly pop up when prompted by something?"
Liam blinked again, still looking confused. "They're just... there," he answered slowly. "There... if there's something I need to know, and the memory is available, it's just... there...." He paused. "Sometimes something prompts it - like on the archive ship, or when I saw the flash off the scope of McKenna's rifle at the Seattle Children's Hospital, or when you mentioned your mother cooking with you on Saturdays - but most of the time... it's just there."
Archive ship? Sandoval wondered curiously - then pushed that curiosity away for the moment. He could ask later. Right now, Liam's tone was starting to get frustrated again - presumably at his inability to explain precisely what he meant - and Sandoval figured that he had best continue before it got the better of him.
"So, you've never consciously made an effort to find a memory?" he prompted.
His son stared blankly at him for a moment, and then slowly shook his head. "No...."
"Well, then, I think it's time you tried," Sandoval said decisively. He sat back down in his chair and pointed his fork at Liam's plate. "Finish your breakfast first, and then we'll see what we can do about answering some of your questions about Ha'gel." And the Kimera.