Okay, this is/was my first ĎSentinelí fanfic -

ĎGí rating.

Standard disclaimers... plus - I just do this for fun and because I canít help myself..

Kith & Kin

by Sealie

Jimmy Ellison rubbed absently at the bruise on his arm. His father had gifted him with the bruise when he had been less that enthusiastic about going to the supermarket. His bicep ached. But the punch had been more of tap than a deserved punishment. Jimmy stepped around a shop assistant painstakingly moving cans from a trolley to the shelves.

*Iím never gonna do that. Iím gonna be a marine.*

Quiet dreams assailed him. He was going to get out into the great big world as soon as possible. Miss French, at school, thought that if he worked hard he might be able to get a scholarship to college and then he would be able to join the Marines as an officer candidate.

The mundanity of shopping intruded.

*I havenít got something,* he realised, *I havenít got something.*

Dad wouldnít be pleased with him if he went home and he had forgotten something.

*Sugar? Nah. Coffee? Juice?*

Jimmy smiled as he remembered that his Dad wanted fresh oranges. Wire basket almost swinging, he backtracked to the fresh produce section. Grinning at Sheriff Kovac, on the way, who had a very confused expression on his round face as he looked at different types of washing powder on a heavily stocked shelf. The Sheriff was probably shopping for his very pregnant wife. The smell of greens: cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts, greeted Jim. The young man bypassed the fresh vegetables and arrowed towards the fresh smelling fruit. A small boy, little more than a toddler, stood directly in front of the display of oranges. Easily, Jim reached over the boy and began to fill up his basket. The kid barely came up to his thigh. Disturbed from his contemplation of the fruit the little kid looked up at him.

Preternaturally wise eyes regarded him.

Jim started. *Do I know the kid?*

He decided that the small boy looked familiar; maybe that he had seen him around town.

"Hi," Jim tried.

Blue eyes looked guilelessly up at him, but the kid didnít say a word. Jim cast a look around the fresh produce section. There were several women filling their trolleys but none of them were looking and none seemed to belong to the kid.

*I guess itís none of my business* That what Dad said: donít get involved with things that donít concern you.

He returned to filling his basket.

The kid watched each orange moving from the display to the basket.

*He looks kinda hungry*

"Whereís your mom?" Jim asked.

*Can they talk when theyíre this small? His mom should be here.*

The kid shook his head, tousled curls bobbing with the movement.

Jim blew out a sigh. "Did your mom bring you into the store?"

The impish face considered the words, then he nodded.

Jim looked around again, nobody was taking any notice of the exchange and there were no shop assistants in sight.

The older boy sighed. "Letís go find your mom."

He was slowly walking, down the aisle, once again looking at the other customers, when a small hand tucked itself in his hand. Jim gazed down at the toddler. A smile flickered across the childís face. Jim couldnít help himself; he gave a reassuring little squeeze.

Happily, the kid skipped at his heels. Jim immediately shortened his walking pace. It wasnít really necessary, for every one of his steps the kid bounced forwards two or three.

*How am I gonna know his mom?* Jim wondered.

Jim studied his young charge. He wore a tiny knitted vest, its rainbow of woven colours almost painful to look at. His clothes were a bit threadbare. However, despite the worn quality of his clothes he didnít look as if he had been abandoned; he was clean. Although his hair didnít look like it had seen a hairbrush in over a week.

The first aisle yielded no reaction from the kid.

Nor did the second.

*What do I do if we donít find her?* Jim wondered. *Find Sheriff Kovac, heíll know what to do.*

Jim recognised the kidís mother before the kid even saw her. The woman stood out like a sore thumb in the backwoods store. Hair bleached yellow blond with reddish roots coming through, wearing an outlandish tie dyed purple blouse and vibrant green flared trousers. The boy saw his mother and nodded, almost wisely, and allowed himself to be tugged across to the womanís side. She was engrossed in reading the label on a can of beans. Jim rolled his eyes and then tapped her on her shoulder. She turned and looked at the duo. The woman let out a squeal, which pierced his eardrums, as she saw her son.

"Baby, did you wander off?"

The kid nodded

"Wasnít it nice of the big boy to bring you to me?"

She picked the kid up, swinging him onto her thigh with a practised movement. But the kid still clung tenaciously onto his hand.

"Let go of him, Baby Bear."

"Kith," the kid finally spoke.

*Kith?* Jim wondered frantically.

"Oh, just a little one - then," his mother said cryptically.

Before he could stop either of them, she had moved forwards and the kid had transferred his grasp to around his neck and had planted a sloppy kiss on his cheek. The kid released him immediately and leaned back in his motherís arms, chuckling quietly to himself.

Jim knew that he had turned brick red.

The woman laughed.

"Heís very affectionate," she said by way of explanation.

"Yeah, right." Jim rubbed at his cheek.

The kid continued to chuckle.

Jim glared at the boy but the reprimand rolled off him, if it had even been acknowledged.

They looked at each other, oblivious to the mother.

"Well, weíd better be moving on," the mother suddenly interrupted, "weíve got a long drive ahead of us."

She didnít say it nervously, but Jim could tell that she was becoming uncomfortable.

"Yeah, sure."

She had turned on her heel, scampered down the aisle and was slipping past the queue of people waiting to pay for their groceries before Jim had finished his monosyllabic response. He could hear her apologising to the folk waiting - whispering that the kid was sick and she had to get him out into the fresh air. The old door creaked and the strange pair had disappeared into the cold November night.

*The kid wasnít sick* Jim realised.

Then he saw the gap in the shop assistantís carefully stocked display; she had stolen the can of beans. Jim knew what he should do: find Sheriff Kovac and tell him that the woman was shoplifting. But the kid had looked so hungry. Sheriff Kovac turned around the bottom aisle pushing his shopping trolley. Jim looked down at his shoes - anywhere rather than at the off duty police officer who would read his mind like an open book. Head bowed, Jim slowly made his way to the queue. His conscience gnawed at him. The queue moved forwards and Jim joined them. He idly played with the money, his Dad had given him, in the pocket of his jeans - concentrating on the smooth metallic feel.

*what am I gonna do?*

The cashier on the till coughed around a mouthful of gum, interrupting his thoughts. He knew the cashier, Maryanne, sheíd been a couple of years ahead of him in high school. The queue moved again as Old Mrs Westerbrook finally paid for her milk and tottered out of the supermarket. Jim pushed his shopping toward Maryanne and an idea came to him.

"Hey, er.. you know that hippy woman who had to leave Ďcos her kid was sick?"

Maryanne stared up at him with cow-like eyes and nodded as she processed the groceries.

"She thought the kid was, like, gonna hurl."

Maryanne made a Ďgrossed outí sound. "Gawd, I woulda had to clean it up."

"She had a can of beans, she didnít have time to pay for... Well, she gave me the money..." Jim pushed the money his dad had given him and smiled winningly. "Just add it..."

"Yeah, yeah," Maryanne said and pushed another lever on the till.

Slowly, Jim packed his shopping in his bag. Hopefully, Dad wouldnít ask to see the receipt or he catch it when the change and the groceries didnít tally. Wrapped in his thoughts he stepped out onto the sidewalk. An old beat up chevy kangarooed down the road, coughing and spluttering. The kid was standing on the passenger seat, almost as if he was waiting for him to leave the store, frantically waving a chubby little hand.

Jim snorted and waved in response.

Then the car turn down the main street and out of sight.

Jim stuffed his hands in his jeans pockets and started back home.

He had chores to do.

fin