This one's for Lila....snicker

It's all her fault, after all.

As always, the concept of The Sentinel does not belong to me. Nor do any of the characters from that show. I gratefully acknowledge their owners for their creation and forbearance in not suing us for the unauthorized use of their creation.

The Shirt


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It had gotten used to it, actually. Being passed around from one person to another. It had been around for a long time. Originally, it had been purchased by a woman for her husband. After some years, and having been worn lovingly for all that time, it was passed on to the son, who wore it like a shield against the fear.

The son was a soldier, like his father. A good man, a caring man. On several occasions, it had been loaned to others, always carefully laundered and returned; until the last time. The last time, its owner didn't return. The new owner, upon hearing what had happened, buried his face in it, hiding his tears. The shirt understood. Unable to cry for itself, it gratefully absorbed the tears of its new owner. This new one carefully laundered it by hand, blocked it carefully to dry, and gently folded it and put it with his other things.

Every once in a while, the new owner would take it out and wear it. It was always done with reverence, and at times when the man needed something to comfort him. One day, someone else took it to wear. It had been a long time since a stranger had worn it, and the shirt felt pleased about it.

Instead of being carefully laundered and returned, however, it was thrown in with the regular laundry, but eventually it was returned.

Surprisingly, it seemed that it was suddenly very popular, being shared amongst many other people. The shirt, becoming more and more worn with age, loved its lot in life; bringing comfort and warmth to everyone who 'borrowed' it.

Many years passed, and the old sweatshirt became somewhat threadbare, but it was still lovingly cared for, and still being shared, much to the old shirt's joy.

One day, many years later, small fingers found the shirt and pulled it out. The child took the shirt and pulled it over his head. Smiling proudly, he toddled out of his parent's bedroom to show it off.

The sleeves dragged the floor and the hem tangled little feet, causing the boy to stumble and fall. The threadbare old shirt tore and the child began to cry.

His father scooped him up and looked with dismay at the old shirt. Shushing his son, he carefully removed the torn old shirt from the small body. "It's okay, Jimmy, don't worry, Daddy's got you."

His wife came in and frowned. "I hate that shirt. Now that it's torn, it can go in the trash, where it belongs."

Her husband looked at her in horror. "No way. I'll get it repaired."

His wife scowled. "Whyever for? It's just an old sweatshirt. It was worn out a long time ago. Why on earth would you want to keep it? It's not even good for a rag, but you treat it like it's the most valuable thing you own!"

Her husband set his now calm son down and sat down on the sofa. "This shirt... It was my grandfather's. It was given to him when he got back from Peru, because the clothes he was given to wear were washed in harsh chemicals that irritated his skin. The man who gave it to him was killed right after, and he never had a chance to return it."

His own son toddled over and crawled up into his lap. "This shirt.... It's been passed around to just about everyone. Great-Uncle Blair wore it, Great-Uncle Simon... My dad and Uncle wore it. It was always loaned when someone needed something warm to wear, not just warm in temperature, but warm for comfort." He looked up at his uncomprehending spouse. "If I have to, I'll put it in a glass case. It's not just an Army Sweatshirt, it's part of my family. Part of my heritage." Seeing that she still didn't understand, he shook his head. "Remember the trouble we had when we first got married? How hard it was for you to understand why I use non-perfumed soaps and detergents on everything?"

She nodded, relaxing her combative stance a bit. "You were allergic."

He smiled. "Not allergic, exactly, just sensitive. Remember, sentinels aren't always allergic, although my grandfather was, but we are sensitive to stuff. Well, this shirt...." he looked down at the faded, worn, damaged garment and hugged it to his son and himself. "It's special. You don't have to understand, or even like it. Just don't ever do anything to it, okay?" He looked up with a pleading expression in his eyes. They locked gazes for long moments, then she looked away, sighing.

"All right. I doubt if I'll ever understand it all, but it's yours and it's important to you. Give it to me and I'll see what I can do to repair it." She reached out and he hesitantly let her take it from him. She handled it gently and he softly let his breath out in relief. No, she didn't understand, but she would accept it. He looked down into the serious eyes of his son.

"I sorry, Daddy. I sorry I braked it." There were tears in the toddler's eyes.

"It's okay, Jimmy, you didn't mean it. Mommy's going to fix it."

Jimmy looked up at his mother, his eyes shining. "Mommy fix?"

Looking down into the hopeful gaze of her son, she suddenly had a flash of insight. Carefully examining the old sweatshirt, she smiled. "I can fix it, Jimmy. Don't worry." She looked again at her husband and her smile grew softer. "It won't be as good as new, but it will be okay." She sat down beside her husband, reaching out to her son and gently stroking the toddler's cheek.

The old shirt, now sporting a patch at the hem where the tear had been, was carefully laundered by hand and gently blocked to dry, then folded and put away, deeper in the drawer than before. She gently stroked the soft fabric. With a sudden determination, she rose and headed for the phone book.

For his next birthday, her husband opened the box from his wife, inside, was a wooden shadowbox with the old sweatshirt enshrined inside. Beneath it, was a brand new US Army Sweatshirt, nearly identical to the original.

He looked up at his wife and there were tears in his eyes. "I love it."

the end

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