Thanks to V. for her beta and encouragement!
Warnings: Future-fic, holiday-fic, hint of OFC
SCENTS OF CELEBRATION
Jim Ellison woke to the distinct feeling that something was wrong. Instead of moving, he stayed perfectly still beneath the familiar blankets of his bed in the loft, and let his senses open up to do the walking for him.
Nothing seemed out of place. No unusual drafts, no odd echoes. The spare room below was empty, but Blair’s steady sleeping heartbeat and half-snores hadn’t filled that space for a good six months. That wasn’t it.
Jim took another deep breath, and it hit him.
And today was Christmas.
The past five Christmases in the loft had started the same way: waking far too early to the hot, sweet smell of baking cinnamon rolls. Blair’s inability to get up in the morning was apparently suspended for the holiday. Jim would lie there for a few minutes, listening to off-key novelty carols and inhaling the scent of celebration, before going downstairs to join his roommate.
This Christmas, the loft smelled neutral, normal. Every-day.
Jim cracked his eyes open, to check time by the light. No reason to get up this early. He let the lids drift closed. No reason not to enjoy sleeping in.
The phone rang.
“What am I, the living definition of irony?” Jim muttered as he rolled out of bed and took the stairs to the ground floor two at a time. That had better not be Simon. Jim reached for the receiver, grabbing it up just before the caller would have been transferred to voice mail. “Ellison.”
“Merry Christmas to you too, Jim.” The voice on the other end sounded amused.
Of course. The kid would be up early. “Same to you, Sandburg.” Jim allowed himself to relax against the breakfast bar, letting the momentary rush of adrenaline fade into a yawn. “May I assume that Gina is also a Christmas early-riser?”
“Nah, but she loves me, so–“ There were sounds of a scuffle, followed by laughter. “Dammit, Jim, you’re making me get myself in trouble here.”
“What, she already gave you your present, and now properly regulated married life can resume?” Jim couldn’t resist just a bit more teasing.
“Yeah, actually.” Blair’s voice had switched into intense excitement. “That’s why I called, I’ve got to tell you about this, man!”
“You sure I want to hear this, Chief?”
Blair cleared his throat, then took a couple of deep breaths, clearly trying to reign himself in. “Trust me, Jim, this you definitely want to hear. Gina just gave me the best present possible.” He paused expectantly.
“If you’re expecting me to guess, buddy, it’s a little too early for that.” Although, now that he thought about it, there had been that one day a couple weeks back, when Gina came to pick Blair up from the station. He’d wondered.... Nah.
“She’s pregnant!” The announcement blazed across the phone line; Jim winced and turned his hearing down a notch. “Jim, we are having a baby! Isn’t that fantastic?”
Jim found himself grinning. In the background, Gina said, Calm down, sweetie. Blair must be all but dancing. “Congratulations, Chief. Give my condolences to Gina.” Blair sputtered over that. “I’m sure this is only the first of an army of little Sandburgs.”
“You got that right.” Blair still sounded bouncy. “As long as Gina doesn’t mind.”
“That sounds wise,” Jim agreed. The image of his partner chattering to a curly-haired, over-active toddler was strangely appealing.
The loft suddenly seemed to hold more echoes than it had when he woke.
Gina was whispering something. “Jim....” Blair’s voice was half curious, half accusing. “Gina says you asked her how she was doing a couple of weeks ago. Right after she found out. She says you asked her ‘very seriously’.”
Jim filled in the verbal blanks: Was that simple concern, or are we talking about some Sentinel thing?
“I guess I could tell,” he admitted. “Though I had no idea what it was I was hearing till just now. I’d about chalked it up to imagination.”
“You mean you knew? How?” Blair demanded.
Jim toyed with the idea of a less-than-full disclosure, but that usually wasn’t the greatest idea. “I’m pretty sure it was the heartbeat. I thought it might be an echo, but it sounded too fast, too tiny.”
“You heard the heartbeat?” Blair’s voice changed direction as he turned from the receiver to ask his wife, “Was it even beating then?”
Yeah, she sputtered, clearly trying not to laugh.
Blair came back on the line. “Okay, Jim, do you usually pay that much attention to my wife?” The words were teasing, with just the hint of an actual question beneath the surface.
Jim answered that hint. “Nah, Junior. She’s beautiful, but not my type.” And now the weird part. “I listened because she, uh, smelled different than usual. I couldn’t place the smell right away....”
“...and you accidentally piggybacked your hearing? My god, nevermind that, you smelled her hormone levels?” Blair’s voice peaked again. “That’s amazing, Jim! Gina, where’d I put my notebook?”
“Sandburg, why do you still keep notes?” Jim was pretty sure he knew the answer.
“For posterity, man,” Blair said smugly. “If my little boy ever befriends a Sentinel, he’s gotta know what to expect.”
Little girl, Gina corrected.
“Thanks for that, honey, since we still don’t know the sex. Ah, here it is.” A pen scratched across paper. “What did it smell like?”
“A bit sweet?” Jim frowned, recalling the first wave of scent. “At first I thought it might be really subtle perfume. Then I wondered if she might be getting sick–-it smelled biological.”
“And you piggybacked your hearing, and picked up the heartbeat of a seven-week-old fetus?” Blair stopped writing, and when he spoke again, his tone was reverent. “Jim, that’s incredible. A sound that tiny, in the mess of noises that is the operation of a human body. And you weren’t even looking for it.”
“To be fair, Sandburg, I had no idea what I’d heard.”
“Quit being modest.” Blair brushed the objection away with a verbal grin. “You’re going to get a lot of practice over the next several months.”
“Oh, I’m terrified.”
Gina had whispered something at the moment he spoke, and Blair burst out laughing. “Okay, in the interest of warning you, man, Gina says she’s going to come see you any time she gets nervous about how the baby’s doing. Save her the trouble of calling her obstetrician and waiting in line to see her.”
“Will I get paid for my time?” The notion was vaguely unsettling. A bit voyeuristic, maybe. Of course, if you’ve got a Sentinel more or less “in the family”....
“Sure,” Blair said cheerfully. “We’ll write it all in the baby book. December 5th, Uncle Jim heard your heartbeat for the first time. February 28th, Uncle Jim told your Mommy you were being so quiet because you’d just learned to suck your thumb....”
“Calm down, Chief. I think you need some time to get used to this whole baby thing.”
“Calm? Me?” Blair snorted. “Tell you what, why don’t we come be excited over at the loft?”
“No tests. It’s Christmas, Sandburg.” The protest was half-hearted; the emptiness of the loft was starting to nag at him, and it would be pretty neat if he could find that tiny heartbeat again, now that he knew what it was.
“I’ve got fresh cinnamon rolls.” The statement was pure temptation. “Is that enough of a bribe?”
Jim glance around the loft. A chilly dawn was breaking on the balcony, through stormy gray clouds. “Not from anyone but you, Chief. Give me an hour or so to get the place warmed up, though.”
“Fine, we’ll see you then.”
Jim replaced the receiver in its cradle. He stood for a few minutes, watching the pale light trickle in and stir up dust on the counter-top. Then he made sure to stoke the fire before heading for the shower. The loft, still blank and normal, would be smelling like cinnamon and new life very shortly.
It was Christmas Day after all, and he had friends coming.
In other news, NaNo count for yesterday was: 2140, for a total of 13,929. And the plot moves forward....