Disclaimer: The Sentinel and its characters are the property of Pet Fly, UPN, Paramount, and The SciFi Channel.
Based on a real event reported on abcNEWS.com
Brief references to 'Remembrance'.
Much appreciation goes to Shallan for her beta work... thank you!
"Hi, Jim!" Blair called cheerfully as he entered the loft, closing the door behind him.
"Hey, Chief." A contemplative expression on his face, Jim's gaze remained fixed on the beer bottle in his hands.
Jim exhaled softly before looking up into the concerned visage of his partner. "Yeah, I was just thinking."
Blair smiled. "Must have been some pretty heavy thoughts." Surprised when Jim didn't respond to his affectionate teasing, he placed a hand on Jim's shoulder and squeezed gently. "Are you sure you're okay?"
Jim nodded in reassurance. "I'm fine."
"So, why the serious face?"
"I was thinking about something that happened when I was little."
"Oh. Is it..." Blair hesitated, remembering the recent encounter with Adam Foster that had brought a repressed childhood memory out into the light. "Is it something you'd rather not remember?"
"No, nothing like that." Jim's eyes were hooded for a moment, his mind replaying each painful detail of the case that had, for good or bad, brought him back together with his father.
Jim took a deep breath. "When I was driving home this afternoon, I remembered another time where I used my senses."
"When you were little? That's great!" Blair plopped down on the couch beside his friend, bouncing excitedly. His mind whirling with the possibilities, it was almost a full minute before he noticed Jim's decided lack of enthusiasm. "That is great, right?"
"To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about it." Jim shrugged. "You know, it's funny. I'd forgotten all about it until I passed a school bus parked alongside the road." He paused to take a sip of beer. "All of a sudden... it was as if I were there."
"As if you were where, Jim?"
"On a bus, riding home after school." With those words Jim fell silent, his thoughts once again introspective.
"Tell me about it?"
Smiling faintly at the softly spoken plea, Jim took a second to set the almost empty beer bottle aside before turning in his seat to face Blair. "I was probably nine or ten years old..."
"Just a kid," Blair interjected.
"Right. Steven and I were on our way home from school, and..."
Tossing his backpack on the floor, Jimmy slid across the seat as Stevie flopped down noisily beside him. Resting his head back wearily, he closed his eyes as the bus slowly pulled out of the parking lot.
Stevie watched the passing scenery for a few minutes. Then, unable to sit still for an instant longer, the small boy began to bounce in his seat. "Jimmy, do you think Sally made cookies for our snack today?"
Unable to resist the temptation to tease his brother, Jimmy deliberately remained silent.
"Hey, Jimmy, do you think Sally made those giant chocolate chip cookies for our snack today?"
His mouth watering at the thought of the sweet chunks of chocolate that always peppered their housekeeper's homemade treats, Jimmy kept his eyes closed and listened in amusement as Stevie tried again.
"Jimmy, do you think Sally made those chocolate chip cookies for us? Do you?"
Attempting to remain perfectly still despite the jostling from the bouncing form beside him, a small smile crossed his face when Stevie impatiently repeated his question for a third time.
"Jimmy, do you think Sally made some chocolate chip cookies for us? Jimmy, answer me!" Stevie punctuated his words with a smack to Jimmy's arm.
Jimmy opened his eyes. "Hey!"
"So, do you? I love those cookies! Don't you, Jimmy? They're so good!"
"You know what, Stevie?"
"You bounce like Tigger."
"Do too! Just like Tigger."
"Tigger's for babies," Stevie said in disgust. "Take it back!"
At the obvious dare, Stevie shoved his brother against the side of the bus.
"Tigger," Jimmy teased, shoving Stevie back.
Quickly retaliating, Stevie punched Jimmy in the arm as hard as he could. "Take it back!"
"Tigger," Jimmy repeated before maneuvering the younger child into a headlock. "And you know what else?"
"What?" Stevie asked, intrigued despite himself.
"Little brothers that bounce like Tigger need to be TICKLED!" With those words, Jimmy playfully reached out with one hand to tickle Stevie's ribs.
"Hey!" Stevie yelped, twisting in his seat, trying to push away Jimmy's fingers as he giggled in childish glee.
Continuing the torment for a few more seconds, Jimmy finally released his brother, giving him an affectionate pat on the arm before admitting, "I hope Sally made cookies, too."
Stevie licked his lips. "The chocolate chip ones?"
"Do you think dad will come home tonight?"
His good mood evaporating quickly, Jimmy muttered, "I don't know."
Stevie frowned. "Sally said dad is awful busy."
"Yeah." Jimmy slouched down in his seat far enough to rest his knees on the back of the seat in front of him and closed his eyes again.
Torn from his silent contemplations by the loud sound, Jimmy opened his eyes and looked up. The bus, making its way around a corner, had swung too far to the left, crossing into the incoming lane. A white Chrysler, horn still blaring, dodged to the right, missing the bus by only a few feet.
Forehead crinkling in concern, Jimmy sat up straight in his seat, hands reaching out to grip the seat in front of him. As the bus continued down the street toward its first stop, Jimmy watched with alarm. Instead of staying safely within its own lane, the bus was perceptibly weaving back and forth, crossing the center line at times, and occasionally inching into the dirt shoulder of the road. At the next turn, the bus turned too sharply, and all of the students felt the bump as its back tires traveled over the curb. There were a few giggles from the children as they momentarily went airborne.
"Stevie, I think..." Alarmed to see Stevie half-way out of his seat talking with a child across the narrow aisle, Jimmy reached out to yank his brother back onto his bottom. "Sit down," he commanded.
Jimmy pursed his lips tightly together. "I think there's something wrong with our bus driver."
Stevie's head swung around, and he peered at the woman driver. "What?"
Without responding, Jimmy's eyes narrowed and focused on the rearview mirror, the driver's reflection clearly displayed within its rectangular shape. The woman's face was lightly flushed, and her eyes were tinged with red and watering profusely.
His sense of smell kicked in, and Jimmy's nose wrinkled in recognition of the sour smell that wafted through the air. "The bus driver was drinking. I can smell it," he whispered to his brother.
"You mean beer?" Stevie asked in horror.
Nodding, Jimmy answered, "Yep. Just like Richie's dad at the football game. Remember?"
Stevie darted another look at the driver, his eyes wide. "Are we gonna crash, too?"
Jimmy turned to eye the rest of the students, thankful to see there were only seven other children on the almost empty bus.
Stevie's frightened voice broke into Jimmy's thoughts. "We'll be okay," he said quickly, patting the younger boy's shoulder reassuringly.
"What are we gonna do?"
"Switch seats with me," Jimmy ordered after a moment's thought.
Obediently moving to the window seat, Stevie watched as Jimmy leaned out into the aisle.
Raising his voice just loud enough to be heard over the hubbub, Jimmy called, "Okay, everybody. Listen up!"
When only a few heads turned, Jimmy let out a piercing whistle that caught the attention of the rest of the kids. "Listen up!" he repeated urgently. "We're all gonna get off at the first stop, okay?"
"That's not my stop, Jimmy," a blond-haired girl protested.
"I know, but we all need to get off."
"My mom will be mad," another girl chimed in.
"No, she won't. You're not gonna get in trouble, I promise."
"But why do we have to get off the bus?"
"She was drinking beer," Stevie blurted out.
"The bus driver?"
"That's right," Jimmy said quickly, keeping his voice low.
"Like Richie's dad," Stevie added helpfully.
One boy nodded solemnly. "He was drinking beer and tipped over."
"Uh, uh, he crashed."
"My dad said he wasn't acting 'sponsible."
"My mom said beer is bad."
"Is not. My dad drinks beer when he watches tv."
Jimmy let out a small sigh of exasperation. "Right now I need everyone to listen," he said over the excited chatter. Using his authoritative position as the oldest student on the bus, along with a fierce glare, the ten year old motioned toward the exit. "As soon as the bus stops, we all get out. Got it?"
"Then where are we gonna go?" Stevie asked, looking up at his brother trustingly.
Gesturing toward another child, Jimmy said, "Cheryl lives near the bus stop. Right, Cheryl?" At the girl's nod, he continued, "We can go to her house. Okay?"
There were a few nods of agreement, and a quiet, "Okay, Jimmy."
As the bus began to slow, Jimmy swung his backpack to his shoulder. The brakes let out a loud hiss, and the vehicle came to a stop.
"Let's go." Hustling the kids into the aisle and toward the door, Jimmy took up the rear.
Oblivious to the fact that all of the students were disembarking the bus, the driver fumbled a small breath mint out of her pocket and into her mouth before swinging around to gaze out the side window.
Jimmy made sure that Stevie and all of the other children had exited the bus and were safely on the sidewalk before unhesitatingly reaching for the keys dangling from the ignition.
Turning at the jingling sound, the driver made an ineffectual grab for the keys. Trying again, she leaned toward the boy, holding on to the steering wheel with one hand to maintain her balance.
Easily dodging her questing hand, Jimmy pocketed the keys and then turned to look at the woman. "You shouldn't be driving. You could have an accident."
Slurring each word, the driver mumbled, "What are you talking about?"
"It's not safe to drive when you're drunk." Leaving the gaping woman behind, Jimmy gathered up his charges and headed down the sidewalk.
"...and then I walked all of them to Cheryl's house."
"So, what happened after that?"
"Cheryl's mom started calling parents. When the parents found out what had happened, they notified the school. By the time the school sent out another bus, all of the kids were home."
"And the driver?"
Jim shrugged. "I guess she sat there until the police showed up. The next day we had a new driver."
"What happened to her?"
"She was arrested."
"No, but she never drove a bus again."
"Well, that's something. Man, that could have been..." Blair's voice trailed off and he shuddered dramatically. "Did you have to talk to the police?"
"Yeah. They asked me why I thought she was drunk."
"I said she smelled like beer and kept driving off the road."
"Typical kid... short and sweet. You didn't tell them that you smelled it from your seat, I take it."
Jim shook his head. "It's a good thing I didn't, knowing how my dad reacted after what happened with Bud."
Blair nodded in comprehension. "Yeah." He let out a sigh before adding, "You know, I bet you used your senses lots of times when you were a kid."
"Could be, but I don't remember."
"Just give it some time," Blair encouraged. "You remembered this... you might remember more things."
"Maybe," was Jim's non-committal answer.
"You said you were nine or ten, right?"
"You were a pretty responsible kid," Blair commented. "Most kids that age wouldn't know what to do."
Sitting up suddenly as a thought struck him, Blair chuckled softly.
"What's so funny?"
"I was thinking that, even as a kid, you were already on the job."
Jim looked puzzled. "What job?"
With a twinkle in his eyes, Blair responded, "You were engaged in protecting the tribe, man, protecting the tribe. A junior Sentinel!"
"Sandburg!" Jim laughed.
"It's true," Blair insisted. After a moment of reflection, his eyes widened and he once again began to bounce in his seat. "Wow, this could be another chapter in my diss!"
Smiling at his partner's enthusiasm for all things Sentinel, Jim cocked his head thoughtfully. "Hmmm... You know what?"
Unable to resist, Jim leaned back against the cushions and closed his eyes. "Never mind. It's nothing,"
"What do you mean, nothing? It must have been something. Jim?"
Deliberately keeping his eyes closed, Jim listened with amusement as Blair repeated his name.
Attempting to remain perfectly still despite the jostling from the bouncing form beside him, a small smile crossed Jim's face when Blair tried again, a bit more impatiently this time.
"Jim! Come on!"
"It's just..." Jim finally began.
"Just what?" Blair demanded.
"Well, you suddenly reminded me of someone."
A pleased smile crossed Blair's face. "I remind you of your brother?"
"Yep... at age six."
"Jim!" Blair sputtered indignantly, smacking his friend's arm.
"Owww," Jim complained, opening his eyes to pierce Blair with a mock-wounded look before reaching out to ruffle his hair.
"Don't mess with the hair!" Blair protested, trying to smooth down the disheveled strands and move out of Jim's reach at the same time.
"You know what else?"
Blair swallowed nervously at the look on Jim's face. "No, what?"
"You bounce just like Tigger, too."
"I do not!"
"You do, too!" Quickly pouncing on the younger man, Jim pinned Blair to the couch and teasingly wiggled his fingers right above his ribs. "You know what happens to little brothers who bounce like Tigger, right? They get..."
"You wouldn't dare," Blair interrupted, stomach muscles tightening regardless of his words.
"...tickled," Jim finished, his fingers darting closer to Blair's t-shirt clad frame. "Right?"
"Wrong," Blair dared to say, frantically attempting to wriggle out of Jim's grip.
Jim's eyebrows went up, and he relentlessly dug in with both hands.
"Jim!!" Blair squeaked out, chortling happily.
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