Spencer nearly plowed into Aaron’s back as they entered their home. After a short day at the office to wrap up the remaining paperwork for their most recent, grueling case, Aaron had declared that the team could take the rest of the day off to heartfelt cheers. He and Spencer had signed Jack out of kindergarten a mere hour early and had headed home. Now, Spencer pressed his free hand against his sentinel’s back to steady himself and tightened his arm around Jack, securing him to his hip. “Aaron?”
His sentinel took a deep breath then tilted his head in his characteristic listening stance.
Spencer wrapped his hand around Aaron’s wrist to ground him.
“Daddy?” Jack whispered, his little head also tilted. “Why is Mommy making that noise? Is she hurt? Who’s that with her?”
With just those innocent questions Spencer knew what it was that Aaron and Jack were hearing. Why Aaron was so tense and unmoving. Spencer leaned his forehead against his sentinel’s back, tightening his hold. “I’m so sorry, Aaron.”
Aaron twisted his wrist free, but his hand slid up to lace their fingers, giving Spencer’s fingers a gentle squeeze. “Go pack yourself and Jack a bag.”
Spencer knew better than to argue when Aaron sounded like that. He tried to slip by the master bedroom without letting Jack see anything, but the door was wide opened and the young sentinel had very sharp eyes. Spencer could see the questions in Jack’s eyes, but thankfully the boy kept silent, obviously sensing that something was very wrong.
“Sweetheart, pick a few of your favorite toys, okay?” Spencer hurried to Jack’s closet, pulling out his little rolling suitcase and packed enough clothes for a week. When he turned back to Jack, the five year old was carefully piling his favorites, but he was biting his lip and his head was turned towards his parents’ bedroom.
“Yeah, Jack?” Spencer was grateful Jack was keeping his voice low, mimicking Spencer.
“I thought only mommies and daddies who loved each other sleep in the same bed?”
Spencer scrunched his eyes closed; wishing to God Haley had been smart enough to keep this out of their house. “That’s true.”
“But it wasn’t Daddy in there with Mommy!” Jack protested, a little too loudly.
“Shhh,” Spencer soothed, picking up him and settling Jack in his lap. The little boy clung. “Sometimes . . . sometimes mommies and daddies don’t love each other anymore.”
Jack’s eyes went wide and lush with tears. The wetness grew as the voices became loud enough for Spencer to hear.
“You’re never home, Aaron! What was I supposed to do? Forget my own needs? Be the good little wife?”
“But they will always love you,” Spencer hurried to assure him, turning Jack’s face towards him, hoping that the young sentinel would be distracted enough to focus on him rather than on his parents’ arguing. “Just like I will always love you, even when you find your own guide.”
He knew it was inadequate explanation and measly reassurance, but it was all he could give him right now. That, and slipping into the young sentinel’s mind to wrap him in warmth and love and security.
Aaron swept the hotel room, checking his temporary territory for anything that might hurt his shrinking family. With his wife’s betrayal, all he had left – his son and his guide – would need even more vigilant protection. He wanted to bar the door, his wife’s angry screams that she wanted custody of Jack ringing in his ears, but he knew it was an unnecessary fire hazard.
Aaron gathered his tiny son in his arms, holding tightly but carefully. “Yeah, buddy?”
“Are we leaving Mommy behind?”
He stared down into Jack’s face, saw dark eyes that reflected his own, saw a strange understanding that a five year old shouldn’t have. Aaron’s eyes narrowed, suspicions rising. Spencer must have felt his emotions surging because a long, slim body was suddenly plastered to his back, infinitely familiar waves of soothing warmth flowing into his mind. He let his guide calm him so that his voice came out stern, but still gentle. “Jack, is there something you want to tell me?”
Jack gave a one-shouldered shrug.
“Did you meet him?” His voice and arms shook with renewed anger, fury that his wife would let her lover anywhere near Jack. Aaron relaxed again as Spencer’s soothing presence surged in his mind, smoothing out the jagged edges of his anger once more.
Jack shook his head, something old and tired in his eyes. “I heard Mommy on the phone talking to Aunt Jessica. She said she had never been so happy.”
Aaron wondered if Haley knew how she had hurt Jack with such words. It was obvious Jack thought that she hadn’t been happy with their family, that she wasn’t happy with Jack. “She loves you, buddy. It’s me your mom’s not happy with,” he reassured easily. It was the truth. She may have hurt Jack, but she loved him.
Jack nodded, eyes slipping down.
“C’mon, bedtime.” Spencer said quietly, patting Jack’s back and nudging them both towards the bathroom. “You two go first.”
Aaron brushed a long lock of Spencer’s hair out of his face, letting his fingers trace down a downy-soft cheek.
Spencer smiled. It was the same smile he gave Aaron on the day they had met and bonded.