Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- Everyday Life Series

Traffic Jam VI
by Becky
September 1998

Blair waved one last time at the two children as the mini-van pulled out of sight, changing lanes in a slow, steady progress toward the exit ramp. Jim chuckled again, echoing Blair's movement from behind the younger man -- where he couldn't see him. When his partner turned back around to settle into his seat, Jim had his hand resting on the steering wheel, tapping his fingers slightly to the beat of the music coming from the speakers.

The quiet in the cab, except for the hum of the engine and the radio, remained unbroken for several minutes, both men just relaxing, comfortable with the silence between them, not needing conversation.

But Jim knew it couldn't last long and was proven correct when Blair shifted in the passenger seat to face Jim, one hand going up to brush some hair behind his ear. "Well, now what?"

"What do you mean, 'now what'?" A smile pulling at the edge of his lips, Jim raised an eyebrow and glanced at his partner. "You're bored already or something like that, Chief?"

Ignoring the question as unnecessary to answer, Blair reached forward to flip the radio dial to the traffic channel. "How much longer is this gonna take anyway?" He found the right channel only to discover, much to his disgust, that they'd just missed the traffic report by mere seconds and things had moved on to local news. Clicking over to the music channel he and Jim had finally settled on, Blair sunk back into the seat. "Well, that was sure helpful. This is getting really tiresome."

"So I noticed." Jim gestured toward the road ahead of them with his chin. "But look, there's the culprit. Hopefully we won't be stuck out here too much longer now. There. See the truck?"

Edging forward in his seat to stare around a few cars, Blair followed Jim's gaze. Spotting the overturned semi, his dark eyes widened dramatically. "Man, that's a lot of tomatoes!" After a moment, he added, voice quiet, "No ambulances, so everyone must be okay. That's good."

"Yeah. If there'd been injuries, who knows how long we'd be here." Jim shivered, imagining how much worse the backed-up traffic could have gotten.

Blair shook his head. "Not something I want to think about." He paused, then laughed. "But, man, that's still a lot of tomatoes."

"No kidding." Jim smiled, echoing Blair's amusement. "Now if we can just get past it--"

Jim's cellphone, sitting on the seat between them, rang shrilly, startling both of them.

The two men stared at it, listening to it trill a second time, then looked at each other.

Blair reached for it, grinning. "Any bets on whether or not it's Simon wondering where we are?"

Shaking his head, Jim leaned back into his seat. "I know better than to bet against you. Unlike the rest of the guys in the department, I want to keep all of my money." He waved at the phone in Blair's hand. "Go ahead, answer it."

Laughing softly, Blair flipped open the phone, answering the imperative-sounding third ring. "Blair Sandburg."

"Sandburg, where the hell are you and Ellison?" Simon's voice came clearly through the phone -- irritation and impatience rolling off every clipped word.

Blair waggled his eyebrows and raised a hand in the air, his palm toward Jim. Laughing and shaking his head, Jim met Blair's hand with his own in a mostly-silent high-five. The younger man said into the phone receiver, "Hey, Simon. You worried about us?"

"No, Sandburg," Blair could almost hear the cigar being yanked from between Simon's teeth, "I am not worried about you. I want to know how long you're planning to take on getting here. What did you do -- take the scenic route or something? You can't still be on the highway."

Looking around them, Blair pursed his lips in mock-concentration. "Hmm, I'll have to disagree with you there, sir. Looks like the highway to me. Loads of cars, honking horns, and upset drivers. Definitely a highway. In fact, we're in sight of the semi-truck that overturned its load of tomatoes across the highway and caused this whole mess."

"Tomatoes? Do you say tomatoes?"

"I sure did. They're currently strewn all over the road, blocking at least two," he glanced at Jim for confirmation, and receiving a nod, went on, "yeah, two lanes of traffic."

"You're telling me tomatoes are keeping you out of Cascade?"

"Yep." His lips twitched and he struggled with the laugh that wanted to appear at Simon's apparent confusion.

A pause, then again, in a bewildered tone of voice, "Tomatoes?"

Finally, Blair laughed out loud, unable to keep it inside any longer. "Round, red, juicy vegetables, Simon." He paused a moment, then went on. "Well, technically they're fruits, but I won't get into that now. It'd only confuse you more. But you slice them up to put on sandwiches, usually with lots of other stuff, though just plain tomato sandwiches are pretty good too, especially on hot days. Or they can also be made into soup, though typically one buys tomato soup in a can, pre-made and all, you know. I guess you could sit down and make your own, but I would think that could be pretty messy, but..." A choked noise made him look over at Jim. He found the detective covering his mouth with one hand, blue eyes alight with laughter. Grinning, he kept going, hardly stopping to breathe. "They're the main ingredient of ketchup. And, of course, they're one of the staples of Italian cooking, right up there with pasta, garlic, and basil. They're also known as 'love apples', reputed to--"

"SANDBURG!!!"

Yanking the phone away from his ear, Blair stared at the earpiece a minute, futilely trying to ignore the muffled chortling coming from his left. Gingerly he lifted the phone up to the other ear, sparing a moment to glare good-naturedly at his highly amused partner. "Uh, yes, Simon, uh, sir...?" He rubbed his sore ear with the other hand, realizing belatedly he should've expected the shout. There were times when Jim's ability to control his hearing would come in really handy.

A long, drawn-out sigh answered Blair's hesitant query and he could picture the police captain drawing a hand across his forehead, rubbing at the lines, eyes closed, teeth slightly clenched. Something about cops and jaw clenching -- there was probably a paper in that somewhere...

Simon's voice came across the line, quieter, only a touch of annoyance in evidence. "I know what...oh, never mind, it's not worth the effort. Just work on getting by the...tomatoes and then get to the station. Do not pass go and do not collect $200."

"Well, fine, take all the fun out of it..." Blair huffed out, smiling, seeing Jim roll his eyes.

"Sandburg..." Friendly humor edged its way into Simon's voice. "Get here when you can." He paused, then added, a very evident smile in his tone. "And kindly inform Detective Ellison that the paperwork pile on his desk is getting taller as we speak." Chuckling, he hung up before Blair could say anything.

Blair stared at the phone a moment before closing it and shaking his head. "That man just loves getting the last word, doesn't he?"

Laughter still echoing in his voice, Jim said, "He's the captain. I think it's in his contract or something." He shook his head, grinning. "I don't know, Chief, it didn't sound to me like the Captain appreciated your little lecture about tomatoes."

Blair shrugged, his face echoing Jim's grin. "I just wanted to make sure there wasn't any mistaking just what was blocking our return route to Cascade."

"Oh, I think you made sure, all right, no doubt about that." He laughed, letting the truck roll forward with the crawling traffic.

Silence again dropped in the cab. Jim concentrated on edging the truck forward every chance he got, looking ahead to see if he needed to do any lane changes any time soon. Blair pondered the idea of doing a side paper on cops and their ways of reacting to high stress situations -- including those famous jaw clenches (mostly by Jim) and those very loud yells (mostly by Simon).

Jim interrupted his train of thought with a question. "So do I get a story too?"

"A story? Huh?" Blair blinked, wondering what Jim could be referring to.

"You know, a story." He glanced over at Blair. "I told you two now. Don't you owe me one? I'm sure you've got at least one good, entertaining story in that head of yours?" He reached over to tug at a few locks of hair. "Probably more than one."

Blair nodded. "Oh, a story. Yeah."

Jim laughed softly. "You're started to sound like Simon, Chief. I didn't know repeating yourself was catching."

Snorting in response to that particular idea, Blair waved a hand in the air. "Sorry, I was thinking about something else. A story. Give me a second here..." He stared out the windshield, eyes unfocused, one finger tapping on his lower lip. Then he smiled. "Okay, a story. Here we go. A year or so before I met you, I took this short trip down to Mexico, well, it was supposed to be short..."

- The End -

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Go to Traffic Jam VII...