Leonard had been the guardian angel of a number of children. He loved the little darlings and was always sad when he was reassigned. He hated to see them go. His last little girl was as sweet as could be and had such big dreams. He couldn’t help her though. Sitting in the park waiting for his next assignment all he could think about was his sweet little Jenny.
He didn’t know who to expect. He’d been told the name of his assignment and a rough description but not much else, which was a little out of the ordinary. Usually he was taken directly to the child but this time he was simply told to wait.
“There’s been a change of plans.”
He looked up to see his boss walking toward him, “Sir?”
“Come with me and I’ll take you to him. Chris is having a hard time and could use some help.”
Leonard stood to his feet and followed along beside the older man. “Chris sir?”
The older man nodded, “His current guardian is retiring. You’re the replacement.”
“Is he difficult sir?”
“Oh no, he’s one of the best. Just time to hang up his hat and enjoy his time.”
“I meant my assignment sir.”
“Oh!” The older man grinned a little, “I’m sorry. Yes your new assignment can be a bit difficult at times but it’s nothing you can’t handle. Remember that kid Finnegan?”
Leonard nodded. Boy did he remember Finnegan. He was a little devil. Tormented the younger kids, always playing pranks, always in trouble. He sure gave me a run for my money.”
“So did that kid…what was his name? Riley? He was a fun one if I remember.”
Leonard gave him a slight smile, “Yeah, he was a good kid though. Had some trouble but he got through it alright.”
“I have to warn you, this assignment isn’t like any of your others. He’s a little older than the average but don’t let his age fool you. He needs someone watching out for him. He’s had a rough life and he’s not making it easier on himself.”
“So what am I supposed to do?” Leonard asked as they approached one of the apartment building situated at the edge of the park.
“You’re moving in.”
Leonard frowned and raised an eyebrow. “I’m what?”
“You’re moving in and you’re going to live like them. Keep an eye on him and try to keep him out of too much trouble. Fifth floor apartment 7B. He’s across the hall.”
Leonard stood there and stared up at the building. The older man nudged him. “Get a move on. Chris is waiting for you.”
Leonard headed up to the fifth floor and found Chris standing outside the door to 7B.
“You’re the new guy?”
Leonard nodded and held out his hand, “Leonard. You must be Chris?”
“That’s me. Phil didn’t say he was bringing in a fairy godmother for this.”
Leonard rolled his eyes and glanced down the hall, “So where is he?”
Chris nodded to the door across the hall. “That’s his apartment. He’s entertaining right now so we have some time to get you settled before he does something stupid again.”
“Great…Wait a second…He’s entertaining? Just how old is this kid?”
Chris turned the knob on the door to 7B and pushed the door open. “Twenty-three.” he said as he stepped inside the apartment.
Leonard glanced back at the door and sighed. This was not going to be an easy assignment.
Chris spent the next hour going over everything in the apartment with him. Food in the fridge, clothes in the closet, phone and laptop on the table, and the usual dos and don’ts of the job.
“We’ve arranged for you to work at the museum as a security guard, think you can handle that?” Chris asked as he pulled a uniform out of the hall closet and handed it to him.
Leonard took the uniform with a nod, “Yes sir.”
“Any questions before I leave?”
Leonard looked around the apartment and shook his head. “No sir, I don’t think so.”
“Good. Jim’ll be about done and then he’s off to work I suggest you get going too.”
Leonard nodded and walked into the bedroom to change into his uniform. Chris stepped out into the hall and looked over at the door to Jim’s apartment. “You’ll do great.” He said quietly before heading down the hall.
A couple of hours later he walked out of the locker room and headed for his post in the lobby of the museum. The doors hadn’t opened yet but it wouldn’t be long and there would be streams of people coming in to see the new exhibits. He’d found a map of the museum in the pocket of his uniform and had studied it before he arrived for work but after fifteen minutes of wandering through the Egyptian exhibit he had to admit he was lost.
“You must be new here.”
He turned and looked around for the source of the voice. “It’s my first day…”
A sandy haired man stepped out from behind an exhibit with the biggest grin and a sparkle in his eyes. The bluest eyes Leonard had ever seen. He felt his heart flutter in his chest and he frowned. He’d never felt anything like that before and he wasn’t sure what it meant.
“Jim Kirk, tour guide.” he said stepping over to him and extending his hand.
He blinked. Jim…his new assignment. The kid he was supposed to watch over. He took his hand and gave it a firm shake. “Leonard McCoy, security.”
“Nice to meet you, I’m headed for the lobby if you want to tag along.”
Leonard nodded, “Thanks.”
Jim turned and shrugged, “No problem. It’s easy to get turned around in this place. I got lost at least four times in my first week here.”
Leonard smiled and laughed. “The tour guide got lost?”
Jim looked over at him and grinned again, “I wasn’t a tour guide then. I’ve only been doing this for the last few months. I was at the front desk before that.”
Leonard followed alongside the blonde while he continued to talk about his time working in the museum and offering random facts about some of the exhibits as they passed. Once they had made their way to the lobby Jim turned and smiled. “See you around McCoy.” He said as he headed off toward a small group that was gathering near the door.
There was something about this kid that was different and it wasn’t just his age.
A few hours later Leonard stood at the information desk keeping an eye on the door as streams of people came in the doors. A group of five and six year olds on a school trip passed by him in two lines. He smiled down at them and a little girl near the end smiled back and gave him a little wave.
He turned and looked up at the young girl that had just approached him. “Yes Ma’am? What can help you with?”
“I’m looking for my group. I got lost and I’m not sure where they went…”
“I’m sure we can find them. Who is your tour guide?”
“I can’t remember his name but he’s a little shorter than you, blonde hair, blue eyes…”
Leonard nodded. “Sounds like Jim.” He took his radio from his belt and hit the button. “I’ve got a lost lamb at the front desk. Can I get a location on Kirk’s group?”
“They’re headed for the Titanic exhibit.”
He smiled at the young woman. “Let me show you back to your group.”
She nodded as he turned to the desk. “Kalissa, I’ll be back shortly.”
The redhead behind the desk waved him off and continued staring at the monitor in front of her. He shook his head and started off toward the east wing of the museum, the girl following close behind him.
The Titanic exhibit was a temporary exhibit, it was making its way across the country and was only going to last a few short weeks. Leonard was familiar with the incident but had never actually seen any of the pieces in the exhibit. As he walked through he couldn’t help but notice some of the items. Ladies gloves, unbroken dishes, scraps of paper, but the things that stood out to him the most were a pair of children’s shoes and a deteriorating teddy bear.
He stopped and stared at the items thinking of the child they had once belonged to.
Tight black curls and amber eyes, barefoot in nothing but her thin white nightdress. Clutching the bear tightly to her chest as tears stream down her face. Reaching a hand out and placing it on her shoulder. Kneeling down beside her and whispering in her ear. Sniffling she is placed in a boat and someone wraps her up in a jacket.
A hand on his shoulder and he knows…his little girl won’t make it through the night.
“Are you okay mister?”
The voice of a little girl brings him crashing back to the present. He turned to her and nodded. “I’m okay. Just thinking about someone I used to know. She had a bear like this one.”
“What was her name?”
“Elizabeth. She was four years old when I last saw her.” He took a step away from the case and she followed along beside him.
“What happened to her?”
“I’m not sure. She was going away and I never saw her again.”
He smiled down at her and turned back to the exhibit. There were several groups making their way through, it took a few moment before he caught sight of the blonde headed man he was looking for. Putting a hand on her back he moved in the direction of Kirk and his group.
**“In compliance with the law of the sea, women and children boarded the boats first; only when there were no women or children nearby were men permitted to board. Yet many of the victims were in fact women and children, the result of disorderly procedures that failed to get them to the boats in the first place.”
Leonard cleared his throat and stepped up beside the blonde tour guide. “Lose something Kirk?”
“Lissie!” A young woman rushed over and grabbed her by the hand. “Where on Earth did you go?”
“I went to the bathroom and got a little turned around. I couldn’t find you so I went to the desk for help.”
The young woman looked up at Leonard. “Thank you for bringing her back to us.”
Leonard smiled and nodded, “Just doing my job ma’am.” He glanced over at Kirk, “Try not to lose anyone else?”
The blonde grinned, “I won’t. Thanks Officer McCoy.”
Leonard walked away and shook his head. If he didn’t know any better he could have sworn that woman was one of his girls. Who was he kidding, she was. Rachel always was good with the younger kids. He knew she’d grow up to be a teacher one day. Just never thought he’d get to see it.
Isadora was new in town, going to a new school, and just didn’t seem to fit in. She was a smart kid she was just quieter than most. Just the type that Jake liked to torment. Leonard sat on the bench at the edge of the schoolyard watching and wishing he could intervene, the poor girl looked terrified. Thankfully the sandy haired kid that was often the target of Jake’s bullying stepped in to help.
Jake balled his fist and Leonard stood to his feet. “Don’t do it Jake.” he whispered.
Jake hesitated as Isadora scurried away into the school. Jimmy stood in front of Jake and continued to stare him down, Leonard knew the chances were slim that Jake would back down voluntarily. He could only stand back and hope that he would do the right thing.
He didn’t. He punched Jimmy in the nose and left him bleeding on the ground. Leonard sighed and walked over to him. “You okay kid?”
Jimmy looked up at him and nodded as he wiped his nose with the back of his hand. “I’m fine.”
Leonard reached a hand out and helped him up, “I saw what you did for that little girl.”
Jimmy shrugged, “She’s new. No reason to pick on her.”
Leonard smiled, “Keep your chin up kid and don’t let the bullies keep you down.”
Nodding Jimmy turned and headed inside the school. Leonard watched him as the doors closed behind him. “You’re a good kid Jimmy. Don’t ever change.”
Two days later Leonard sat down on the couch and picked a book up off the table. He flipped through a few pages and set the book back down with a sigh. “What am I even doing here?”
Leonard turned toward the window, “Chris, how am I supposed to help him? I need more information.”
Chris shook his head and sat down on the couch. “You’ll know what to do when the time comes. Just stay close. He’s highly unpredictable.”
Leonard opened his mouth to say something when there was a knock at the door. “Just a minute!” He called before turning back to Chris only to find him gone. Shaking his head he stood to his feet and walked to the door. Unlocking the deadbolt he opened the door. “Can I help you…”
Jim smiled up at him. “Hey! Officer McCoy! I didn’t know we were neighbors!”
Leonard raised an eyebrow, “Are you drunk?”
Jim straightened up and gave him a crooked smile, “Maybe…What’s it to ya?”
“You knocked on my door.”
“Oh! Yeah I did!” He laughed and poked Leonard in the chest. “Would you happen to have a key to my place? I seem to be locked out…”
“Why would I have a key to your apartment?”
Jim frowned, “That’s a very good question. Why do you have a key to my apartment?”
Leonard shook his head, “I don’t. Why don’t you come in and take a seat while I call the building manager? Bathroom is on the left. If you need to throw up please do it in there.”
Jim nodded and walked into his apartment. This kid was going to be the death of him…if that was even possible. He shut the door and walked to the kitchen counter to pick up his phone. Jim had settled in on the couch and was looking around.
“You know the guy that lived here before?”
Leonard nodded, “I met him.”
“He was a nice guy. I’m gonna miss having him around…You know where he went?”
Leonard looked down at his phone and set it back down on the counter. Chris was right. “I think he was retiring. Not sure where he was going.”
“He was a nice guy. Helped me out of a few scrapes…Kinda like a dad to me in a way.”
Shit. This kid did have problems. If Chris was like a father too him. “What about your father?” he asked as he moved into the living room and sat down on the couch with Jim.
Jim shook his head, “Died in an accident when I was born…same day even. He was a firefighter. He was trying to get everyone out and the building collapsed on him.”
Jim shrugged. “I didn’t know him. My mom never talked about him. Think it traumatized her or something. She just couldn’t face it.”
“It must have been hard.”
“My brother couldn’t handle it so he went to live with our grandparents. I stayed with mom because she needed me.”
“I can understand that. I wish I’d been able to stay with the people that needed me.”
“Why’d you leave?”
Leonard shook his head. “My job kept me on the go a lot. Haven’t been in once place for very long in a while.”
“Maybe you’ll get to stay here for a while.”
Jim yawned and closed his eyes. “What’s keeping the manager?”
“Why don’t you just rest here and I’ll give him another call?” Leonard asked as he stood to his feet.
Jim nodded and slumped down on the couch. “Thanks Officer…”
“Call me Leonard.”
Leonard draped a blanket over him and stepped into the kitchen. “Why didn’t you tell me any of this?” He muttered to himself.
“You needed to hear it from him. I’ve been around him for years and saw a lot of his struggles first hand. If I’d told you your response to hearing it from him would have been different.”
Leonard turned to face Chris. “What am I supposed to do here? I don’t understand…”
Chris sighed, “He needs a friend. He needs someone to keep him steady.”
“How long of an assignment is this?”
“As long as it takes Leonard. As long as it takes.”
Over the next few weeks Leonard kept an eye on Jim. Neither of them mentioned the night Jim spent on Leonard’s couch and Leonard never mentioned waking to find him gone. Leonard found and envelope stuck under his door one evening after returning home from work and opened it. A key slid out into his hand and he pulled a small note out of the envelope that read “Just in case”.
“Just in case what?”
The door across the hall opened and he turned around. “Hey Leonard.”
“This yours Jim?” He asked holding up the key.
“Yeah. I thought it might not be a bad idea if you had a key. You know, just in case…”
Leonard nodded, “Thanks for trusting me.”
Jim shrugged and leaned on the door frame. “It’s not like I don’t know where you work and all. Besides you’re a security guard. If I can’t trust you then who can I trust?”
Leonard smiled and shook his head. “I guess that’s true.”
“You eaten yet?”
Leonard glanced inside his still dark apartment and shook his head. “No. In fact I think I forgot to go shopping…”
“Come on over. I picked up some chinese and I can’t eat it all.”
Leonard dropped his stuff inside the door and pulled it shut behind him. “Thanks Jim.”
Jim lead the way into his apartment, “No problem. I always get more than I can eat and it usually just sits in the fridge.” He pulled the bags of food over on the counter and started taking cartons out one at a time. “I’ve got fried rice, potstickers, egg rolls, wontons, vegetable lo mein, sweet and sour soup, beef and broccoli, and kung pao chicken.”
Leonard stared at the containers on the table and glanced up at Jim. “I can see why you always have leftovers. Were you really hungry when you ordered?”
“I never know what I’ll actually eat so I get a little of everything that sounds good. Today I couldn’t decide. What sounds good to you?”
Leonard shook his head, “Fried rice and kung pao chicken?”
Jim grinned and handed the containers to him. “Good cause I kind of wanted the noodles and beef. I picked up a movie on the way home too if you want to watch it with me.”
Chris had told him Jim needed a friend. This just proved that he was lonely. He’d practically planned the whole evening. What would he have done if Leonard had said no? Leonard glanced around the room. A couple of pictures of him and his mother hung on the wall in the living room and a random piece of art here and there but nothing that told him anything about the single occupant of the apartment. It wasn’t overly messy but it wasn’t the neatest apartment he’d seen either.
He looked over at the blonde with the crystal blue eyes, “What movie?”
Jim practically bounced over to the kitchen counter where he picked up a DVD case. “Peter Pan.”
Leonard laughed and nodded, “I haven’t seen that one in a while.”
“Good.” He headed over to the tv and stuck the dvd in the player before he settled in on the couch with his cartons of food. Leonard grabbed the utensils and sat down beside him and handed him a fork.
Leonard set the carton of rice on the side table and opened the chicken. “I’m not sure I’ve ever actually had this before.”
Jim looked over at him, “You aren’t allergic to peanuts are you?”
“Don’t think so.”
“Like spicy stuff?”
Jim grinned and stood to his feet. He disappeared into the kitchen and returned with three bottles of water. “You might need this then.” He said, handing one of the bottles to him.
Jim set the other two bottles on the table and grabbed the remote to start the movie. He pulled his feet up under him and settled in for the movie. Leonard spent as much time watching Jim as he did watching the movie. He was starting to understand why he had been chosen for this assignment. Jim was a in a sense still a child. He was a child at heart.
Kevin Riley had been sent to a wilderness camp for the summer. He wasn’t a bad kid, he just had trouble adjusting in school. His parents had decided that camp might help him. Leonard stuck close to him while he settled in with the other kids. Their guide took them deep into the woods and everything was going well until their guide disappeared on them leaving eight children alone in the woods with no food and only one tent. The second oldest kid in the group stepped up and took charge.
He oversaw the assembly of the tent and managed to find some berries and other edible plants nearby. Leonard could only watch from a distance while the kids fend for themselves while waiting for someone to find them. For three weeks they stayed right there. J.T. made a crude fishing pole and managed to catch a fish or two every couple of days and his simple trap even caught a rabbit. He built and managed the fire and did his best to keep the other kids calm. Kevin was the youngest and J.T. had taken him under his wing. Kevin followed him everywhere, Leonard was glad that Kevin had made a friend and knew he’d be alright.
At the end of the fourth week a search party found them and brought them back to the main camp. While everyone was bustling around getting food and water for the kids Leonard sat down beside J.T. “You the one in charge?”
He nodded and stared at his feet. “Yeah.”
“You kept them safe.”
J.T. nodded again, “Sam taught me lots of things before he left.”
“My brother, he left to live with my grandparents. They couldn’t take us both, only wanted him.”
“You did good.”
“Thanks.” He wiped his face with the back of his hand and sniffled.
Leonard wrapped an arm around him, “It’s not your fault.” he said quietly.
The dam broke and the tears streamed from the boys eyes as he wrapped both arms around Leonard. Together they sat there until Jim cried himself to sleep. Laying him back on the bed Leonard pulled a blanket over him. “It’ll be alright kid.”
A month after their movie night Leonard was sitting at the info desk when the alarms sounded.
“An immediate evacuation of the museum is required due to a fire in the North wing. Please remain calm and exit the building in an orderly fashion. Follow the instructions of emergency and other museum personnel.”
Leonard jumped to his feet and grabbed his radio. “What’re we looking at John?”
Making his way toward the North wing against the steady flow of people he directs them to the exits.
“It’s not good Leonard. Don’t know what started it but it’s spreading fast and there are people trapped in there.”
Leonard’s heart skipped a beat, “Who’s still in there John?”
“Kirk’s group was near the back of the wing. They got trapped. We can’t get to them.”