Jim lay staying up at the ceiling, sleep eluding him. The loft was quiet, so it wasn't noise keeping the Sentinel awake. Nor was it overly bright, with only a single candle burning on the dresser. And it wasn't the fading musky smell of sex lingering in the room keeping him awake either. No, what was keeping him awake was a dull ache residing somewhere deep in his gut. The ache that told him that his bond with his guide... his wife... his Carolyn was dying and he didn't know how to save it.
For almost a year they had been drifting apart. Carolyn holding more and more of herself back from him and only giving him barely what he needed through their bond to avoid a deep zone-out, nothing more. At the beginning there had been more, so much more. Love and laughter and warmth had hummed along their bond between them. It seemed so solid back then, so sure, like nothing could ever break it or even dull its fire. But things changed, they changed, and that fire had cooled to a lukewarm cinder.
He had tried to make an effort tonight, stopping and picking up some of their favorite Indian food and some roses. He had beaten Carolyn home and set the table with candles and opened a bottle of wine, with some soft jazz playing on the stereo. She had been surprised when she got home, and for the space of a heartbeat Jim felt that old heat flare along their bond before Carolyn locked it down and shut him out once again. The meal had been rife with tension, not at all the romantic encounter he had had in mind. Wordlessly he had stood and blown out the candles before clearing the plates. Carolyn disappeared into the bathroom and he heard the bath running and the smell of her favorite bath salts. With a sigh he had double checked all the door locks and headed up to bed.
An hour later her quiet footsteps on the stairs surprised him, she had taken to sleeping in the small guestroom downstairs for the past few months and rarely shared his bed. At her silent approach he sat up, bracing himself up on his elbows. She reached his side of the bed, her blue satin robe clinging in places to her damp skin. When he had gone to speak, Carolyn had stopped him with gentle fingers on his lips. Tonight she wanted sex and sex alone. He swallowed hard as she reached for the edges of her robe and slipped it off her shoulders. As he reached to pull her to him, he tried to project through their bond all the love and desire he used to remember feeling for her. He tried not to think about how none of that would get through the emotional walls she had so expertly raised even as his own body reacted to his Guide in ardor.
The heat and her touch and her taste were all familiar as he moved inside of her making her gasp and claw at his shoulders as her release hit. But while his other senses basked in the familiar, he noticed that her scent was off, something just not quite right, something just not his Carolyn. He disregarded the realization in favor of letting the momentary oblivion of the first orgasm he had had with her in months take him.
A part of him had silently hoped that maybe this could be a reconnection for them, a fresh start giving them an opening to find their way back to the way they used to be. But as he lay there panting and reached to pull her in close to cuddle against him like they used to do, she turned away from him and laid with her back to him as far away as she possibly could and still be on the same bed.
He lay there with his jaw clenched as she fell asleep on the other side of the bed, feeling nothing but a static hum in their bond. Sleep eluded him as his gut ached and he wished he were strong enough to tell her to leave.
2 weeks later
The crime scene of a double homicide in the living room of a house in an upscale neighborhood was chaos. Blood was everywhere and the howling wind outside was blowing their evidence all to hell through the broken front window.
Jim had caught a whiff of something from the killer when he had entered the crime scene and found himself focusing on it, excluding all else. He didn't know how long he had stood there sniffing the scene and hadn't realized he had zoned out until Carolyn's voice calling his name over and over broke through to his brain.
He still had his sense of smell wide open, however, when he came out of the zone and got a deep inhale of Carolyn's scent. This was the closest physically that they had been since the night she had joined him in bed a couple of weeks ago. It had been as if she had put even more distance between them since that night.
It was always hard coming out of a zone, but to come out of one to the scent of someone he loved, someone he wanted that was holding themselves apart from him was like a punch to the gut. Greedily he let himself inhale some more, this time purposely cataloging it in his mind. He could smell her shampoo and her fake-baby powder scented deodorant and then there were the razor-sharp florals of the new perfume she had taken to wearing. There was something else under all that though, something that was Carolyn but more somehow. He didn't know what it meant but he felt an out-of-place wave of protectiveness crash over him because of it.
Another week later
Jim put on his robe and slipped down the stairs, something felt off in the loft. He checked the doors and made sure the windows were closed. The curtain to the guest room was cracked open, and his sharp eyes took in her sleeping form.
He frowned. There didn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary, nothing that should have awoken him from a sound sleep. Yet here he was with an itch crawling up his spine that he couldn't explain.
He went to the window and looked out at the myriad of little lights from the boats on the water. He extended his hearing towards the guest room listening for Carolyn's gentle breathing. His frown deepened as he remembered a time when that sound used to lull him sleep as she slept curled up in his arms. He listened deeper and found her heartbeat. Steady and strong, it beat out the restful rhythm of someone sleeping deeply. He listened for a moment, a panic seizing him when he heard an odd, faster echo-like repeat of her heartbeat. All but positive that something was wrong with Carolyn and that it was what had somehow awoken him, he was on the verge of dialing 911 for an ambulance when he realized that the heartbeat echo was different from Carolyn's and it wasn't coming from her chest, but rather further down in her body.
He focused in on the little staccato beat as the awareness of what it meant spread over him. He was listening to his child's heartbeat- Carolyn was pregnant.
The slow smile grew on his face as he thought about it. A baby- they were going to have a baby. Maybe this was the thing that had been missing between them. Maybe the empty place that had sprung up between them could be filled by a little person with his eyes and Caro's smile.
He wanted to go into Carolyn's room and kiss her soundly and tell her in words and through their bond just how excited he was over the idea of their baby. But Sentinel traditional held him back. He wasn't supposed to be spying on her like this, and traditional held that he was supposed to ignore the pregnancy until his Guide formally announced it to him. It would be hard to do, but he would do his best. He liked the old traditions.
He quietly moved to the couch and made himself comfortable, never losing the sound of the baby's heartbeat, letting himself be lulled to sleep on the couch by it.
Three weeks later
The entire bullpen knew that something was up with Ellison. His mood was too upbeat and nothing seemed to bring him down. Those closest to him, Simon, Henri, Rafe, and Joel, had known for a long time that things between he and Carolyn weren't good and they all wondered about his sudden change in demeanor.
It was Rafe that had quickly shut down a pool among the patrol officers wagering on whether or not Jim had new girlfriend on the side before word got around about it. Rafe's anger over the incident did not help to dissipate the long-held scuttlebutt that the normally jovial Guide had strong feelings for Ellison. Since the first day the Guide had stepped foot into Major Crimes Rafe had been drawn to Ellison like a moth to a flame. He worked well with Jim, not something many people could claim, and often served as a backup Guide to Carolyn for Jim out in the field as he was one of the rare few that could pull Jim back from of all levels of a zone out. Jim was aware of Rafe's feelings for him; Rafe wasn't the first guide to develop feelings for a bonded, unattainable Sentinel. Rafe kept his feelings locked down and their interactions and relationship were strictly cordial and professional. Because of that Jim felt that there was no reason to formally reject the Guide and cause him hurt, it just wasn't Jim's way. But Jim would be lying if he said he hadn't wondered once or twice or fifty times since his relationship with Carolyn had soured what his life might have been like if he had met Brian Rafe first.
Simon had been watching Jim's behavior over the past few weeks. It was like a whole new Ellison was on his squad of detectives. Watching him give the coffee girl a five dollar tip for a fifty-cent stale donut finally put Simon over the edge and he bellowed, "Ellison, my office, now."
Jim carefully deposited his ridiculously expensive donut down on his desk and entered Simon's office.
He stood there relaxed with his hands shoved deep in his pockets and asked, "What's up, sir?"
Simon just glared at him a moment before moving to shut the door.
"Okay, Jim, you've got one minute to tell me what the hell is going on with you before I order you down to H.R. for a urine test."
"Nothing to tell."
"I know I look young for my age, but I wasn't born yesterday. Now tell me what is going on."
Jim's expression grew a bit more serious and he replied calmly, "I would if I could, Simon."
Simon frown. "Sentinel thing?"
Jim nodded. "Yeah."
"A good Sentinel thing or an I'd-better-call-the-Department-of-Sentinel-Relations-and-order-up-a-containment-unit-thing?"
Jim snorted back a laugh. "It's a good thing, Simon, and a personal one."
"But you can't tell me what it is?"
"Not yet, but I promise you'll be the first one I tell."
Simon picked up his unlit cigar and used it to point at Jim. "I'm going to hold you to that, Detective. Now get out of here and get back to work."
Jim did just that and Simon sat down and pulled his Rolodex to him. He flipped through it quickly and found the card he was looking for.
He dialed the phone and a male voice answered. "Grant King, Sentinel Relations."
"Grant, Simon Banks."
"Hello, Simon. Don't tell me let me guess, you need to reschedule lunch next week."
Simon chuckled, their lunch date had been postponed four times for one reason or another. "No, nothing like that. I just wanted to pick your brain about something."
An Arbiter for the Department of Sentinel Relations, Grant King was responsible for resolving disputes involving Sentinels and Guides in matters of Sentinel and civil law and also worked on problem resolution between Sentinels and Guides. Simon never hesitated to call him when he had Sentinel-related questions.
"Sure, what do you need?"
"What would fall under the category of a good personal thing that a Sentinel couldn't talk about yet?"
"Is this a male Sentinel bonded with a female Guide?"
Grant laughed. "Well not to ruin the surprise, but it sounds like they are pregnant. Sentinel tradition keeps the Sentinel from acknowledging the pregnancy until the Guide formally shares its existence with him."
"Pregnant? Those two can barely stand to be in the same room together the past six months. I've been waiting for leave requests to cross my desk so they can take the necessary time off to dissolve their bond."
Grant laughed again. "Sounds like they may have managed to be in the same room together at least once, Simon."
Simon grinned. "This would explain his ridiculously good mood these days. I almost sent him for a drug screen."
Grant sobered a little and warned, "Just be careful with them, Simon, your guy especially. Expectant Sentinel fathers are a thousand times more protective of their pregnant Guides than usual. It wouldn't take much to set him off into primal or even feral-like behaviors if he feels his child is in danger. I've personally seen one Sentinel take out a dozen DSR personnel over his pregnant Guide. It can be very serious."
Simon sighed. "Thanks for the heads up. I'll see you next week."
"Call me if you need me."
Simon hung up and shook his head. Sentinels- they were going to be the death of him yet.
Jim padded down the stairs on silent feet, not waking Carolyn. His hearing was fixed this morning, just like it had been every single morning since he realized she was pregnant, on the fluttering heartbeat of his child nestled in her womb.
Jim had been trying to project his happiness through their bond to her, he just couldn't help himself, and he found himself not caring that it was bouncing right off of Carolyn's emotional barrier.
Then, about a week ago he had noticed the most amazing thing, while Carolyn was still rejecting him through the bond he felt a tiny new connection piggy-backing their bond that was reaching out to him. It felt very, very small and not strong enough to accept much input from him but still he aimed all the love and warmth and security he could through that fragile link, that tiny bond he had to the person who shared his DNA.
Something was a little different along the baby's bond this morning. It took Jim a moment before he instinctively recognized the distinct feel of another Sentinel. Their baby was a Sentinel. It made him want to roar with pride.
A loud roar from the couch somehow did not surprise Jim as he turned to see his spirit animal regally perched on the couch. Jim's eyes met the big cat's for a moment before the panther turned its head to look down at its own tail curled up on the cushion. Jim's gaze followed the panther's movement and he sucked in a surprised breath when his keen eyes made out that there was an impossibly tiny black panther cub hidden among the coil of the big cat's tail. The panther raised its head with what could only be described as a smug look on its face. Jim grinned and nodded in acknowledgment before he moved into the kitchen to start cooking breakfast like he had every morning for the past few weeks.
Carolyn woke to the smell of coffee and baking blueberry muffins and the happy, contented push of Jim through their bond. She could sense the other bond, the bond between Jim and the baby she carried, a bond that was supposed to be impossible- Sentinels could only have one bond a time. But yet, there it was and she couldn't explain it and wasn't really sure if she wanted to know how.
With a little sigh, she knew it was time. She wouldn't be able to keep pretending she didn't know she was pregnant for much longer.
Breakfast was a quiet affair as always, her nose in a forensics journal, his in the sports section. Carolyn finished her eggs and put down her fork with a clink that got his attention. Jim looked up expectantly, hoping that she was finally going to tell him that she was pregnant.
Carolyn wiped her mouth with a napkin. She swallowed and hesitated before saying, "I'm going to go visit my sister for a few days. Things are calm at the station and I've got a lot of leave accumulated. Rafe can look out for you in the field while I'm gone."
He raised his eyebrow in surprise, her words not what he had expected to hear. "Something the matter with your sister?"
"Nothing major, just... boyfriend stuff. She could use some girl talk... so I told her I'd come."
Jim heard her heart rate jump and could see the perspiration bead on her lip. She was lying. It made his gut itch.
"I could take a couple of days, go with you...," he offered.
"You can't, you have court on Thursday. Besides, my sister makes you crazy."
Jim saw the determined look in her eyes, knowing she was going whether or no he thought it was a good idea. He stood abruptly and grabbed his plate and headed towards the sink. He put the plate and his mug in the sink. Gripping the edge of the sink so hard his knuckles were white, he forced himself to say, "Call me when you get there, let me know you got there okay."
Carolyn swallowed hard as she took in his body language. His need to coddle her, protect her, was almost a tangible thing between them in the room. She answered softly, "I will."
Jim nodded but didn't turn towards her. He took a controlled breath and let it out before heading towards the door. He grabbed his keys out of the dish and his jacket off the hook and opened the door. He paused and said still without looking at her, "I gotta go."
Without waiting for a reply he left the apartment and closed the door behind him. Carolyn sat staring at that closed door and whispered, knowing the Sentinel would hear her through the door, "Goodbye, Jim."