Greater Love 7- Where the Heart Is
or A Sentinel is Not Just for Christmas
Summary: Run rabbit, run rabbit, run! run! run! Rated PG-13.
Disclaimer: All characters and plots associated with The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly, UPN and Paramount. No infringement is intended.
"No, absolutely not! You can't make me do it." Blair stated emphatically, scowling at the people around him.
Sandburg was pouting; Jim smiled to himself, he was most definitely pouting. He had crossed his arms defensively across his chest and his bottom lip stuck out so far there was a danger that someone would trip on it.
"But Chief, Father Jeremy is depending on you, the orphans are depending on you. How can they have Easter without the Easter Bunny?" Jim pasted on his most innocent _expression.
Blair knew he was in trouble. He'd been set up by that low down conniving sentinel of his and there was nothing he could do about it. He stared at Jim with narrowed eyes, letting him know he was on to him. Jim's _expression remained unchanged, but he crossed his legs, taking great care to let Blair see the blue furry monster slippers he was wearing.
Blair groaned to himself. He should have known this was coming, but when so much time had passed he thought Jim had forgotten. He was sooo wrong. Elephants and Ellisons never forget.
"I was sure you'd want to do it. You said you wanted to help out at the orphanage picnic, here's your chance. It'd only be for a couple of hours." Jim's face twitched slightly and settled back into its innocent _expression.
"Then why don't you do it?" Blair asked sullenly.
Jim smiled wistfully and waggled a blue furry foot. "I would, but the costume is too small. The Easter Bunny is meant to be small and cute, a job designed with you in mind."
"Cut the innocent act Jim, I know what you're up to and I won't do it." Blair stuck his heels in determinedly.
Megan, Serena and Simon stood back and watched the battle of wills with baited breath.
"I'm hurt Chief, you have a suspicious nature." Jim wasn't above a little strategic pouting of his own. Just at that moment there was a knock at the door of the loft. Jim got up, making a great show of the blue furry feet and moved towards the door.
"That'll be Brother Marcus with the costume. He's gonna be so disappointed when you tell him you won't do it." Jim smiled sadly.
"Hey! Who said I was gonna tell him. You were the one who volunteered me without asking, you can tell him."
Jim opened the door and invited Brother Marcus in. He was carrying a garment bag, which he handed to Jim. Before Blair could open his mouth the monk crossed the room and swooped him into a hug.
"Thank you Blair. You have no idea how much this means to all of us. I knew I could depend on you to help us in our hour of need. Poor Mr Mendez was heartbroken not to be able to do it. Imagine getting measles at his age." Brother Marcus paused for breath and the whole room went silent, waiting for Blair's response. He sighed deeply, knowing he was well and truly trapped.
"Hey, it was the least I could do. So let's see the costume." He said, trying to sound upbeat.
Bother Marcus beamed and took the garment bag off Jim. Unzipping it he pulled out the costume. It was a pink fluffy all-in-one suit with a close fitting hood and ears. A pink foam nose with whiskers hung from the hanger on a piece of elastic.
It was worse than Blair had imagined. He took it and stared in horrified fascination as he realised that the teasing he'd got at Christmas was going to be nothing compared to what he'd get when Rafe and Henri saw him in this get up. He caught a movement out of the corner of his eye and turned in time to see Jim high-five Brother Marcus. He knew it! It had been a set up and he'd fallen for it.
Nathan's bedroom door opened and he and Connor, who had been playing in there with him, wandered out to see what all the noise was about. Connor looked at his father holding the pink rabbit suit and immediately his eyes flew to Megan. She had that look on her face again, it was the same look she'd had at Christmas when she dressed him as an elf.
"NO! No, Connor not be bunny." He shouted before turning and running back into the bedroom. Before anyone could stop him he had wiggled under Nathan's bed and scuttled back against the wall. It took half an hour for them to convince him that he wouldn't have to dress as a rabbit. Even the promise of Wonderburger for dinner couldn't get him out. Eventually, after both Megan and Blair had got down on their stomachs and promised him, his head emerged.
"Come on squirt. I won't make you dress up in a silly rabbit suit." Blair scooped Connor up. "It's bad enough one of us has to." He muttered quietly.
Brother Marcus took his leave, hugging and thanking Blair again, and Jim and Simon headed out to get the promised Wonderburger dinner. As Blair stood looking forlornly at the pink costume, Megan sidled up and put her arm around his waist.
"Never mind Sandy, I think you'll look adorable." She squeezed him affectionately.
Blair just groaned. Smiling she whispered in his ear, causing him to blush slightly. Looking around furtively he whispered something back, which caused her to blush in return and nudge him in the ribs with her elbow. Unknown to them little sentinel ears were twitching and they had an audience.
The Day of the picnic dawned bright and clear. Unusually, for Cascade, the weather had been exceptionally good. There was no rain forecast for the week before or the actual day. Everyone arrived in plenty of time and all that was needed now was for the Easter Bunny to appear.
The children weren't the only ones who were excited. Rafe and Simon had brought along their cameras. Henri had snuck a camcorder under his jacket. The video he had planned would be the hit of the PD Christmas party.
At exactly 10am there was a rustling in the bushes at the edge of the picnic ground and the Easter Bunny jumped into view, although to many of the adults present it almost appeared that he had been pushed. If they had had sentinel hearing they would have heard a snickering Jim, also hiding behind the bush, 'assist' Blair on his way.
Pasting a smile on his face, Blair hopped around pointing out one or two of the eggs that had been hidden earlier. This was the signal for the egg hunt to start and thirty screaming children poured onto the field.
The noise was horrendous and Jim, who was caught unawares, was forced to quickly dial his hearing right down to cope. He glanced over to see how Nathan was dealing with the racket and found he and Connor helping a few of the younger orphans to find some of the more carefully hidden treats. He was clearly using his enhanced sight without even thinking about it and Connor was holding on to the back of his shirt, much the way Blair often did, grounding him.
Jim's chest swelled with pride as he watched Nathan lift a little girl so she could reach an egg hidden in the low branches of a tree. He heard footsteps and Simon appeared beside him. Together they continued to watch the hunt.
"Hey Jim, how's it going with Nathan? Has he settled in ok?"
"Yeah, I think so. At first he was nervous of doing anything in case we sent him back to the orphanage, but I think we've managed to reassure him. He finally took the last few things out of his suitcase last week." Jim smiled at the memory.
"That's good, he's a nice kid. He doing ok with the senses thing?" Simon glanced away from the children and looked at Jim.
"We practice a lot, and he's not supposed to use them with out me or Blair around, but I've noticed he uses them unconsciously sometimes, especially when he's with Connor. I think there may be something to Blair's theory about Sentinels and Guides being a genetic thing. Speaking of Blair, where has our pink fluffy friend hopped off to?"
Simon grinned and snorted. "He's gone to change. He was last seen heading off with Megan's hand planted firmly on his little cottontail. Henri has it all on video, the kid's not gonna forget this in a hurry. Rafe laughed so hard I thought I was gonna have to get him a change of pants."
Jim's smile grew. "I warned him, you know what they say about revenge. Come on let's go help set out the food, I'm getting hungry and I want to get something to eat before Connor swipes all the best bits."
They wandered over to the food area where they were joined by Rafe and Henri, who were still chuckling over Blair's performance. The food was soon all set up and they went to call the children to eat.
Nathan hurried over with Connor bouncing along behind, chattering at top speed. Connor made straight for the food but Nathan hesitated, looking around with a puzzled _expression.
"What's up, Sport? Lost something?" Jim came up behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Where are Blair and Megan? I thought they'd be here." He asked.
"Blair's gone to get changed. They'll be back soon." Jim steered him towards the food and stood watching Connor and Henri made a significant dent in the table's contents. "Although if he doesn't hurry there'll be no food left."
"Oh no! We missed it." Nathan sounded disappointed.
"Missed what?" Jim asked.
"Connor and me wanted to play rabbits too." Nathan explained.
"Play rabbits?" Henri looked up interested.
"Yeah, when Bother Marcus brought the costume over Blair was upset. Megan said that, if he was a good boy and did this, afterwards they could play rabbits. Uncle Blair cheered up and asked if they could play hide the carrot. Me and Connor wanted to help him find it."
There was a moment of dead silence around the table. Henri, who had just taken a large mouthful of his drink, choked and sprayed the table with soda and the rest of them burst out laughing. Jim desperately wanted to join in but forced himself to remain serious. Nathan looked puzzled by the adult's reaction.
"How did you hear that?" He asked quietly. "Did he say it in front of you?"
Nathan looked down in embarrassment; he knew he wasn't supposed to listen in on other people's conversations. "No...I was sort of practising with my hearing and they were whispering."
Jim looked down at Nathan. While he didn't want to discourage him from using his senses, he also didn't want him using them inappropriately. Taking Nathan quietly to one side he spoke sternly.
"You know you're not supposed to do that without Blair or myself helping you. That was a private conversation and you shouldn't have been listening. When we get home you and I will have a little talk about this. Now come on and get something to eat."
Jim could see that Nathan was truly upset that Jim had chastised him, patting on the shoulder he guided him to a seat. Looking slightly tearful he sat next to Connor and picked at a piece of chicken.
Connor seemed to sense his unease and moved closer, chatting away in a low tone, soothing his rattled nerves. He soon began to feel better and relaxed a little. The others had noticed Nathan's embarrassment and carefully changed the subject and soon everyone was enjoying the food.
Jim heard footsteps approaching their table and turned to see Megan and Blair crossing the grass. He shot a warning look at Rafe and Henri before waving a greeting and shifting to make room for them. Blair smiled and sat next to Jim. Hearing snickers coming from the end of the table, he looked around.
"What's up, guys?" He asked innocently.
Henri, who had just stopped choking, sprayed another mouthful of soda across the table, catching Rafe in the face. Some landed close to Connor's plate and, giving Henri what could only be described as a dirty look, he carefully shifted his plate away, shielded it with his arm and continued eating. Rafe reared back when the soda hit and tipped off the back of the bench where he lay on the grass holding his ribs laughing hysterically. Blair was amazed at the devastation his words had caused. He looked questioningly at Jim.
"I'll tell you later, Chief." Jim glared down the table at the two miscreants who were still giggling like children.
Blair shrugged and reached for some food. The rest of the meal went without a hitch...almost. There was one sticky moment when both Henri and Connor reached for the last piece of chicken. Both had hold of it and neither was prepared to let go. They stared each other down like two gunfighters, neither prepared to be the first to look away.
Just as Henri thought he would have to blink, Connor broke eye contact and stared hard at his top pocket. There was a loud ringing; buzzing noise and Henri's pocket seemed to come to life. Startled he let go of the chicken and grabbed for his cell phone which sounded like it was about to explode, pulling it out of his pocket he looked in amazement as it stopped ringing.
Rafe laughed at the look on his partner's face. "Chill Henri, it's only your phone." He laughed. Henri looked shaken. He turned the phone and held it out so that Rafe could see the display.
"I forgot to charge it, the battery's been dead since yesterday. See?" They glanced over at Connor who sat smugly chowing down on the disputed piece of chicken.
"Major weirdness. First lifts, now phones. What's next?" Henri muttered.
"You know, I am gonna get him to talk to my car. What harm can it do?" Rafe smiled and winked at Connor.
Dessert was served and, once they had settled down again, Jim cleared his throat to catch everybody's attention. "Ok. This seems like a good time to do this." He reached out and took hold of Serena's hand. "We have an announcement to make...we're expecting."
Henri looked up from his apple pie. "Expecting what?"
Jim rolled his eyes. "A baby, you idiot! We didn't want to say anything too early, but it's been confirmed. It's due in November."
The whole table erupted. They all crowded round and congratulated the parents-to-be. No one noticed a huddled forlorn figure at the end of the table. Nathan was heartsick, he'd upset Jim and now they were having a baby of their own they wouldn't want him any more. That's probably what the talk with Jim would be about. It had happened in on of his other foster homes, a baby came along and suddenly they didn't have time for some kid who had weird attacks. He knew he shouldn't have unpacked his case, well he wasn't going back to the orphanage, he could look after himself now he had his senses under control. He felt something nudge his side and he looked down into the sleepy eyes of Connor, who had a full tummy and was ready for a nap. Pushing Nathan's arm out of the way, he clambered onto his lap and cuddled in. Within minutes he was asleep.
Everyone returned to their seats smiling and joking. Megan looked over at Serena who nodded. Smiling she reached under the table and pulled out a large paper bag.
"Actually, I have something to tell everyone too." She reached into the bag and produced an economy sized jar of Vegemite. She plunked it down on the table in front of Blair, who looked stunned. "Did I mention there's a history of twins in the family?" She asked mischievously.
"Way to go Thumper!" Henri called down the table.
Blair gulped, looked at Megan's stomach and sat down quickly, looking like he was in shock.
The picnic was finished and all that remained was for them to pack everything back into their cars and head home. This was soon accomplished and they started saying their goodbyes to each other. Jim called Nathan and Connor over and they started making their way back to Jim's truck. As they passed Rafe's car the engine, which had been making a painful wheezing sound, coughed and died. He tried restarting it but it sputtered and stopped again.
"Oh man, I just had this fixed." Rafe's anguished cry filtered out of the open window.
Connor casually reached out and ran his hand down the side as he passed. When he reached the hood he patted it gently and muttered something quietly.
There was a gentle rattling sound and the car seemed to shake for a moment then the engine switched itself on and idled quietly, almost seeming to purr. Rafe's mouth hung open in disbelief while Henri, who was sitting in the passenger seat, burst out laughing.
"See? I told you there was major weirdness going on here. I wanna take the kid to Vegas, we could make a killing on the slots."
"Not in this lifetime." Megan stated firmly, picking up the 'kid' in question and strapping him in his car seat.
The journey home was quiet. Connor was soon soothed to sleep by the sound of the car's engine and Nathan, who had accepted the offer of a ride in Blair and Megan's new SUV, was still feeling a little awkward. Jim had explained about the eavesdropping and Nathan had made a heartfelt apology, he was very fond of both Blair and Megan and he was worried that they wouldn't trust him any more. Seeing the abject misery in his eyes they had both hugged him and forgiven and he promised that it would never happen again.
They all met up at Prospect and, after brief goodnights, Jim, Serena and Nathan entered the loft. Nathan went straight to his room, apprehensive about the talk to come, and pulled his small suitcase from under his bed. He packed a change of clothes; the stuffed lion Jim had bought him for Christmas and the tribal figures Blair had given him as a welcome home present.
By the time Jim had finished putting away the picnic stuff Nathan had got himself ready for bed. He heard the bedside white noise generator that Nathan used at night and guessed that Nathan was asleep. Not wanting to wake him he decided to postpone their talk until the morning. Serena had already gone up to bed and, once he had checked everything was secure, Jim followed.
In his room, Nathan was listening at the door. He heard Jim go up the stairs and, after waiting a reasonable amount of time he picked up his case, moved quietly to the fire escape and opened the door. Being very careful not to make a noise he made his way down the metal steps. Just as he was heading down the last flight he heard a noise above him and looking up he saw a small curly headed figure following him.
"Connor go wiv Nafan." Connor announced as he bounced down the last few steps to the ground.
Nathan looked down at the hopeful face of his little friend. Connor had pulled his jacket on over his pyjamas and was wearing a pair of brown furry bunny slippers.
"No Connor. You can't come with me, you're too young and your mom and dad would miss you. You need to go back." Nathan whispered, steering Connor back towards the stairs.
"Dim and Seena miss Nafan so you not go too." Connor stated confidently.
"They might miss me for a while but they're having their own baby now, they won't want me any more. It's happened before, now you must go back." Nathan whispered sternly.
Connor stood looking up at him with a forlorn _expression. His bottom lip began to quiver and he started wailing very loudly. Nathan quickly hushed him, before he woke the whole building. He looked up to see if any lights came on and when nothing happened he breathed a sigh of relief. He looked down at Connor's smug _expression; there wasn't a tear in sight.
Nathan was stumped. He couldn't take Connor with him and Connor wasn't letting him go alone. He had just about decided to go back and wait for Connor to go back to sleep when a loud meow and a clatter of tins nearby broke the silence. Nathan jumped, pushed Connor behind him and looked for the source of the disturbance.
A short way up the alley stood an old dumpster and perched on the top was Shadow, Mrs Hennessey's sleek black tomcat. Spotting his two favourite playmates he hopped down and rushed over crying urgently.
"Sadow!" Connor squealed with delight and crouched to fuss the cat.
Shadow meowed again and ran back toward the dumpster. After a few steps he stopped and looked back. When they didn't move to follow him, he ran back and tugged on the hem of Nathan's jeans before meowing again.
"I think something's wrong. Stay behind me." Nathan started creeping towards the dumpster with Connor holding firmly on to the back of his jacket.
As he approached the dumpster he became aware of a muffled frantic meowing coming from inside. Finding an old wooden box by the wall he climbed on and opened the lid. Inside was a delicate looking but heavily pregnant tabby cat. The moment the lid was raised she attempted to jump out, but she couldn't reach the top and she fell back and lay panting at the bottom.
"We've got to get her out." Nathan whispered to Connor, who had climbed up with him and was straining to see into the dumpster.
"Connor fetch Papa Bear and Dim." Connor started to climb down.
"No! We'll get into trouble for being out here." Nathan was torn. He knew he couldn't get the cat out on his own, but he also didn't want get Connor or himself to get into bother.
"We'll think of something." He said, but he wasn't sure whom he was trying to convince.
Up in the loft, Jim awoke with a start. He was aware of someone breathing on his neck. Carefully peeling open one eye he looked at Serena who was sleeping with her back to him. He tensed, ready to leap up and tackle the intruder, when a grumbling purr alerted him to the identity of the heavy breather. Turning over he looked into the blue eyes of his spirit guide.
"What's up Kitty?" Jim asked sleepily.
The panther gave him a dirty look; clearly unimpressed with the name Connor had given him, which had been adopted by everyone else. He gave a quiet yowl, turned and headed down the stairs. Jim quickly pulled on his jeans, shoved his feet into his slippers and padded after him.
As he reached the bottom of the stairs the phone rang, startling him and he grabbed it quickly before it could wake everyone.
"Ellison." He answered, expecting it to be Simon on some work related matter. He was surprised to hear the frantic voice of his friend and guide.
"Jim! Connor's disappeared. Wolfy woke me up and practically dragged me into his room and his bed is empty. All the windows and doors are locked but he's nowhere in the apartment." Jim could the anxiety in Blair's voice.
Another yowl from the panther drew his attention to Nathan's bedroom door, which it pushed open with its nose. Jim could see the empty bed and a note lying on the pillow.
"Hang on a second Chief, I'm having a little visitation of my own. Nathan's gone too, there's a note on his pillow, let me get it." He grabbed the note and read. "Damn! He's run away, but I'm sure he wouldn't take Connor with him."
"Jim, Wolfy's scratching at the front door now, I think he wants me to follow." He could hear the sound of Blair's apartment door opening.
Jim glanced over to see the panther patting at the fire escape door, which was slightly ajar. "Mine wants me to go down the fire escape. I'll see you in the street." He took off after the big cat. As he neared the bottom of the metal staircase, Jim heard movement in the alley below and Nathan telling Connor they would get into trouble if they were caught out there.
"Too late, Sport. Want to explain what you think you're up to." Jim's voice coming out of the dark, unexpectedly, caused the two boys to jump. Nathan pushed Connor behind him protectively.
"Jim! Have you found them?" Blair flew round the corner of the building and pulled up short when he saw the two boys. "What's going on?" He asked.
"That's what I was asking." Jim turned back to the two boys.
"Papa Bear, kitty stuck, you help." Connor had come out from behind Nathan and was attempting to drag Blair over to the dumpster.
Jim followed them over and peered into the dark interior of the bin, turning up his sight, he could see the distressed animal.
"There's a cat stuck in there. Looks like she went in looking for a place to have her kittens and someone closed the lid. You stay here, I'll go in and get her out."
Jim carefully climbed in and lifted the frightened animal up. He passed her out to Nathan who held her gently, stroking her to cam her down. Round his feet Shadow meowed and butted against his legs.
"I think this is Mrs Shadow." Nathan crouched down so that the two cats could touch noses before standing up and holding her out for Jim to look at.
"I think she's ok, but we should let a vet look at her. We can phone one from the loft." He turned back to Nathan. "And you can explain why you were running away."
Nathan nodded and looked down, unable to speak around the lump in his throat. He felt he had let Jim down again and it just added to his misery.
They all trooped back into the building with Shadow at their heels. When they got inside they were met by Serena and Megan, who were on their way to help with the search. As they reached the second floor, Shadow stopped outside Mrs Hennessy's door and meowed loudly. The door flew open and he was scooped up off the floor.
"Oh Shadow! Where have you been? I was worried sick...oh!" She exclaimed as she noticed her audience. "Did you find Shadow? I hope he hasn't been causing any bother."
Jim smiled at her. "No, he's a bit of a hero in fact, he led my son and Connor to the dumpster outside where another cat was trapped." Nathan's head shot up in surprise to hear himself referred to that way.
Then she noticed the female cat in Nathan's arms. "Oh, you've found Shadow's lady friend. I thought they might be together, especially with her kittens being due at any moment."
They all looked at the tabby, who was now purring contently. Nathan and Connor both looked up with hopeful eyes.
"No, we can't keep her, she probably belongs to someone. " Jim shook his head. He wasn't really a pet person; they made messes and smells and destroyed the nice order of the loft.
"Oh no, she's a stray, I've tried to coax her into my place, but she's usually a bit nervous of people, although she seems quite happy with young Nathan." Mrs Hennessy smiled.
Nathan was crestfallen, he really wanted a pet to look after, but then he might not be there much longer so maybe it was for the best. Connor, however, looked up in shock. "Dim not want kitty?" He asked incredulously.
Jim looked to the other adults for support but they all seemed to find the wall very interesting. He turned to Serena. "Would you want a cat in the house, what about the germs with the baby?" He asked.
"Providing we're careful with hygiene and keep the place clean we should be alright. She'll need to go to the vet and have all her shots once the kittens are born and someone else will have to clean her litter tray, but otherwise it should be fine. Lots of families have pets and babies."
Jim sighed; he knew when he was outnumbered. Ok, but it's your responsibility to make sure she's fed and her litter is clean. " He looked down at the purring creature and shook his finger at her jokingly. "And you, there'll be no sleeping on the beds or shedding hair, you will not beg for food at mealtimes and if you ever bring any dead animals back to the loft..."
"Geesh Jim, now I've seen it all, house rules for the cat?" Blair piped up.
"Yeah, and she'll probably obey them better than you did Chief, and shed less hair." Jim cuffed him playfully round the head. "Anyway, we better get upstairs, we've still got to call the vet to get Tabitha there looked at."
"Tabitha?" Blair raised an eyebrow inquisitively.
"It seems to suit her." Jim shrugged sheepishly.
"I knew it" Blair nudged him playfully. "You old softy. "
"Oh! I can give you the number of a vet. He looks after Shadow, he's very good." Mrs Hennessey turned back into her apartment, returning a few minutes later with a piece of paper.
"Thank you. We'll let you know when she has the kittens, you could come visit them if you like." Jim smiled
"Oh, that would be lovely, although somehow I think you'll have a hard job keeping Shadow away." She glanced down at the big black tomcat that was pacing restlessly round his feet.
Saying final goodnights they headed up to the loft to call the vet. Since Tabitha appeared not to be distressed the vet advised them to give her some food and water and bring her in to his surgery the next day for a thorough check up. A box was found, lined with one of Jim's old jumpers and soon the feline mom-to-be was contentedly snuggled in a nest.
By this time Connor had dozed off in Megan's arms and Nathan's eyes were struggling to stay open. Jim looked at Nathan and took pity.
"Come on young man, time for bed. We will have a proper talk tomorrow but, in the meantime I want you to promise me you won't try to run away again."
Nathan swallowed and nodded tearfully. "I'm sorry." He turned to Megan and Blair. "I didn't plan for Connor to go with me. I heard a noise and turned round and there he was. I told him he couldn't come but he wouldn't listen to me. I was going to bring him back and make him stay, honestly."
"I know. You had no hope of leaving him behind once he knew you were going. We still don't know how he got out since all the doors and windows were still locked." Blair smiled reassuringly.
"Yeah, he's like his dad when he gets an idea in his head. We'll see you tomorrow; don't look so worried I suspect there's nothing worse than grounding in your future. And I'm going to have a very serious word with my own little wanderer here." Megan gave him a brief one-armed hug.
Connor stirred and opened his eyes. "Go bed now?" He asked sleepily. "'Night Nafan." He lent forward and planted a sloppy kiss on Nathan's cheek. Nathan grimaced and wiped his cheek. Jim smirked until Megan wandered over and held Connor so he could do the same to him.
They all slept late the next morning and, after the breakfast dishes had been cleared, Jim, Serena and Nathan sat down for the dreaded talk. Nathan sat on the sofa and Serena sat next to him, putting a supportive arm around his shoulders.
"Ok, I want you to know that while I am a little cross at you for running away last night, I'm more worried that you felt you couldn't come to me or Serena with whatever was bothering you. I thought you happy here. Do you want to return to the orphanage?" Jim asked quietly.
Nathan swallowed hard and tried to speak. "I don't want to go back. I thought you were going to send me back because I was naughty and you won't need me now you're having your own baby. I'm hard work and I'm another mouth to feed and you'll be busy with the baby and you'll need the space..." His voice broke at this point and two huge tears rolled down his face.
Serena gathered him up and let him cry on her shoulder while Jim gently stroked his head. Once he had stopped crying Jim took hold of his chin and turned his face so that he could make eye contact.
"What made you think that we would send you back? When we asked you to live here we hoped it was a permanent arrangement."
"It's happened before. When I was with the Kennedy's. They said they couldn't have children so the decided to adopt me, I really liked them and I thought they liked me. Then Mrs Kennedy found out she was going to have a baby and I overheard them talking that night. Mr Kennedy said they didn't have room for both of us and that money was tight. He said he wasn't going to feed and clothe someone else's whelp when he could have his own child. The next day they took me back to the orphanage and I never heard from them again.
Jim was appalled at the callous treatment that had been meted out to an already vulnerable child. He wanted to track down the Kennedy's down and tell them exactly what he thought of them. He looked across at Serena and was shocked to see his own anger reflected back at him with interest. Someone had hurt her cub and they were going to pay.
"Nathan, I want you to listen very carefully." Jim sat on the coffee table in front of him. "We don't want you to go back to the orphanage unless you want to. We would be honoured to have you stay here and be a big brother to any other children we have. We will always have room and love for you in our home, never forget that. And you can always come to us with any problem and we'll do our best to help you no matter what."
Nathan looked at Jim and Serena, seeing the truth of that statement written on their faces. He nodded to indicate that he understood, still not trusting his voice, and leaned forward to hug Jim. "I'd really like to stay."
Jim returned the hug. "Besides who is going to keep Connor out of mischief if not you?" He said lightly trying to break the sombre mood.
They were interrupted by a knock at the door and the sound of Connor chattering away to Blair and Megan, Jim opened the door and invited them in. It was immediately obvious to the adults that something was wrong.
"Did we come at a bad time?" Blair asked, noticing the tear stained faces of Serena and Nathan.
"No, we just finished a little talk and everything's fine." Jim smiled.
Connor bounced past the adults and ran up to Nathan. Seeing the tears on his friends face he climbed up on his lap and cuddled in. "Nafan not be sad, I here. Kitty have babies yet?"
Nathan smiled and shook his head. "No, come on you can come visit her, she's in my room." He lifted Connor down and they ran off to his room. He knew the adults wanted to talk and this would give them a chance to do so uninterrupted.
Once the boys were occupied Jim sat down and told Blair and Megan what had happened. They too were outraged at the treatment Nathan had received and voiced their joy when Jim told them Nathan was definitely staying.
"Well I don't know about you but all this talking has made me thirsty. Anyone else want a drink. We have herbal tea, coffee or juice." Jim offered standing up.
"I'll have coffee, thanks." Blair replied. Megan and Serena opted for juice.
As Jim wandered over to the kitchen a flash of blue caught Blair's eye. Looking down he was treated to the sight of his sentinel wearing a pair of blue furry monster feet. His eyes narrowed as he eyed his friend's back.
"Nice footwear Jim." He said casually.
Jim froze; he was well and truly busted. He shrugged sheepishly. "Well, my other ones got dirty last night." He tried to cover his slip. He had always been quick to change out of them when he heard Blair coming, but this morning he had been distracted.
Serena snorted. "Don't let him fool you Blair, he wears them all the time. Claims they're warmer and more padded than his old ones."
"You weasel, you made me dress up as a rabbit and all the time you really liked them." Blair sputtered in outrage. Drawing himself up to his full height he gave Jim a hard stare. "You realise this means war." He declared.
Jim groaned. He knew Blair was capable of great deviousness on the prank front and he was in a real trouble. Serena and Megan both giggled at the banter between the two men. The recent prank wars had provided them both with a great deal of entertainment and it looked as though there was more on the horizon.
At that moment Nathan's bedroom door flew open and a Connor shaped whirlwind shot into the room and ran across to his mother.
Looking up with wide, anxious eyes he pointed back at Nathan's room and said. "Mama! Kitty burst!" He grabbed her hand and tried to drag her into Nathan's room.
They all crowded into Nathan's room to see what was happening. There was Tabitha, safely tucked in her box and purring loudly, cleaning one small squirming kitten. Then as they watched she leaned forward, tensed and pushed. Another kitten started to emerge, head first. A few seconds later she was cleaning a second wriggling bundle while Connor and Nathan watched, fascinated.
There were a few breathless moments as they waited to see if there were any more kittens to be born. Tabitha leaned forward and started to push again but this time instead of a kitten she started to deliver the afterbirth. There was a moment of complete silence, which was finally broken by Nathan.
"Ewww, gross." He wrinkled his nose and backed away. Connor remained where he was watching with huge eyes as she started to clean herself.
From behind Blair there came a groan followed by dull thud and he turned in time to see Jim crumple to the floor in a dead faint.
Later, Jim sat with his head in his hands, cringing with embarrassment. He couldn't believe it; he'd survived gruesome crime scenes without batting an eye but fainted at the sight of a cat eating her afterbirth. Blair sat in the chair opposite grinning like a Cheshire cat.
"Hey man, don't worry, the guys will never hear this from me. Big bad Ellison swooning like Victorian heroine. Better get you some smelling salts for Serena's big day, can't have you passing out while cutting the cord. Hey, you know in some cultures it's quite common for mothers to eat their baby's placenta. It's supposed to be very nutritious"
Jim groaned and decided it would be a good idea to lie down again. "Sandburg, I swear if one word of this gets out..." Jim's threat was interrupted by a knock at the door, which was accompanied by loud meowing. Blair opened the door to find Mrs Hennessey and Shadow outside.
"I was wondering if anything has happened. Shadow suddenly got restless about an hour ago and I finally had to come up and see if she's had them yet." She looked over at Shadow who was pacing outside Nathan's bedroom, lightly scratching at the door.
"Come in, I'm afraid you missed the big event but you're welcome to visit the new mom." He ushered her into the loft and knocked on Nathan's door.
"Mr Ellison, are you alright? You look awfully pale." She bent over Jim's prone form with concern in her eyes.
Blair snorted. "He was a little...overcome by all the excitement."
She nodded knowledgably. "Happened all the time when I was a midwife. Strapping great men brought to their knees at the sight of a baby being born. It'll soon pass. Just wait until it's your own." She patted his hand.
Jim groaned again and Blair snickered.
Megan and Serena, who had been clearing up the mess from the birth and making sure that mother and babies were comfortable, opened the bedroom door and let the visitors in. Shadow ran over to the box, rubbed noses with Tabitha and started to inspect the kittens. By now their fur had dried and it possible to see their colouring. One was as black as Shadow, except for the tip of his tail that looked as though it had been dipped in a pot of white paint. The other was a fiery orange tabby; it's markings already quite distinctive. They were both suckling contentedly and the sound of purring filled the room.
Serena soon ushered all the humans from the room to give the cats some peace and quiet and Mrs Hennessey said her goodbyes, leaving Shadow to make his own way home later. Megan and Serena sat at the kitchen table chatting while Connor and Nathan played a noisy game with Nathan's toy cars and the noise level in the loft was getting too loud for Jim's ears. He signalled to Blair to follow him out onto the balcony.
"I think we're gonna have to look for somewhere bigger to live, it's gonna get real crowded soon." Jim looked out over the city.
"Yeah, us too. Twins man, who would of thought it." Blair was still having trouble coming to terms with the idea.
"So, when is Megan due?" Jim asked curiously.
"End of September, we figure it was the day of the orphanage Christmas party. I'm not sure if it was the curly toed shoes or the tights, but lets just say she jingled my bells alllll the way, if you know what I mean." Blair grinned and waggled his eyebrows.
"No more! That is definitely too much information Chief; I'll probably need therapy to get that image out of my head. At least they weren't conceived in the lift this time." Jim glanced over and noticed that Blair was grinning sheepishly.
"You didn't! When did you have time? No! Don't tell me I don't want to know. I am definitely not using that lift after you two again, you're a disgrace." Jim tried for outrage but couldn't help smiling at Blair's unrepentant smirk.
"Hey, I can't help it if I'm irresistible." Blair turned and waved at Megan through the window. She narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously and he waved again.
"Yeah, well she seems to be resisting you at the moment. Let's go in before she realises you've been bragging about your exciting love life again and it comes to a sudden end." Jim couldn't help smiling at his friend's antics. He extended his hearing and heard Megan speaking.
"I know he's up to no good out there. I'll get it out of him though. He thinks he's irresistible when he does that and I let him believe it. Then I pick my moment and pounce, he's putty in my hands." She smiled sweetly and waved back.
Jim snorted to himself and Blair gave him a hard stare.
"What did she say?" He asked suspiciously.
"That you're irresistible of course." Jim lied, winking at Megan as Blair beamed with relief as they re-entered the loft.
The next morning saw Jim arrive at the station bright and early. Blair had said he had some errands to run and would meet him later. He was, therefore, surprised to see Blair waiting for the lift up to Major Crimes.
"Yo, Chief! I didn't expect to see you here this early." He called as he walked up to Blair.
"Got done early, so I decided come straight here." Blair smiled in welcome.
The lift doors opened and they got in the lift. As usual, at that time of day, the lift was crowded and Jim stood to one side and allowed Edna, from records, to enter ahead of him. They had only gone one floor when Jim became aware of a hand resting firmly on his behind. He tensed and looked around, but with the way the lift was packed it was impossible to say for sure who it was. The hand was suddenly removed, as Jim swung round. He eyed Edna suspiciously but she appeared to have her arms full of files. The only other occupants of the lift were three burly uniform cops, which left Sandburg. He looked hard at his partner, who seemed oblivious; his heart rate remained the same as he watched the floor numbers flash by.
Jim turned back to face the front of the lift as they arrived on the seventh floor, the doors opened and they stepped out. Jim was slightly ahead of Blair so he missed him turning round and giving a double thumbs up to the rest of the lift's occupants. They all returned his grin as Jim strode through the bullpen completely unaware that he was now sporting a fluffy cottontail, stuck to the back of his pants with double sided tape.
"Hey, I'm going to the break room to get some coffee, you want anything?" Blair called out from his place by the door.
"No thanks, it's a little early for me." Jim replied absently picking up a file from his desk.
"You sure? I could get you something else, milk, water, carrot juice?" Blair continued to edge towards the door.
Jim suddenly became aware of the snickers of his co-workers and he looked around frowning. "What?" He asked confused and the laughing got louder.
Simon came out of his office to see what all the fuss was about and almost choked on his coffee when he saw Jim's attachment.
"Have they changed the dress code round here or is there something you need to tell me Jim?"
"Simon, what the hell is going on? Why do I feel like I'm the butt of everyone's joke?" Jim glared at the rest of the room as his words caused even more laughter.
Valiantly keeping a straight face Simon pointed at Jim's behind. "Maybe because your butt is the cause of the joke."
Jim twisted until he could see the little fluffy tail. That would explain the hand in the lift, now he needed to figure out who..."Carrot juice. " He muttered to himself and looked round the room for his partner, just in time to see the door swing closed.
"SANDBURG!" He yelled, knowing that he was already too late to catch him. He glared at a now laughing Simon. "He's a dead man; he just hasn't stopped breathing yet. I can do it, they'll never find the body, I've got connections." He quietly ranted to himself.
"Careful Jim, I'd hate to have to arrest you for murder. Back to work everyone, there are still crimes to be solved." Simon ordered in his best captain's voice.
Jim sat at his desk, still muttering threats of revenge against his weaselly partner, and reached to switch on his computer. Then he saw it; there in front of his monitor was a small, pink fluffy rabbit. It had a small label around it's neck and between its front paws was taped a small bottle of smelling salts. Jim couldn't help smiling, this was sooo like Sandburg, he picked it up and looked at the label, it read. "Congratulations, you've been bunnied."
Jim smiled evilly to himself. "Oh Blair, you are so gonna get yours." An evil plan started to form in his head and he looked around for his unwitting accomplice.
"Henri." He wandered across the bullpen. "I need to borrow that tape you made at the picnic..."