This was supposed to be a sub-plot in another story but it took on a life
of its own and became a short story of its own.
Team 7 Offices
All females are moody. Ezra and
Josiah had been undercover and the seven had just returned to the office
after a successful bust. Ezra was getting the low-down on events in his absence.
Shes too young for PMS, kid. Buck slapped JD across the
back of the head, or tried to. Dunne had seen it coming and ducked.
Theres definitely something bothering her, Ez. Its just
not like her to be so bad tempered. The other kid was nice enough and shes
usually so friendly
Nathan trailed off as he thought about the
experience hed had at McDonalds with his niece the previous evening.
Rorie had been quieter than usual but Nathan
and Raine put that down to end of the week tiredness and dismissed it, instead
talking between themselves on the way to the local fast food restaurant.
There was a small disagreement about how much she had to eat before she could
be excused, but Nathan let her go after shed eaten the burger, without
the bun, and finished half the milkshake. She headed off to play in the plastic
Whats up with her? Raine looked concerned.
Nothing as far as I know. I mean, Ez is undercover and shes always
a bit unsettled but I dont think shes sick or anything. Do
Raine rolled her eyes before gazing back at the play area. She
doesnt have to be sick for something to be wrong Nathan. She just
doesnt seem herself. I think its more than Ezra being away. She
wasnt like this last time.
Shes just tired. Summer School is over and shes spent the
week playing outside with Olivia. She probably
He was interrupted
by a screech echoing down the tubes. The whole restaurant turned to stare
as a loud fight broke out in the maze. Recognizing Rories voice, Nathan
and Raine both leapt to their feet and approached. The attendant hauled the
brawling children out. Rorie had a firm grip on her opponents hair.
Knock it off both of you! The teenager glared at the two kids,
as she worked to separate them.
She started it! The two girls spoke in unison, fingers pointing.
Rorie Standish glared at the other girl, who was at least twice her size
and probably twice her age. The other child glared back.
Enough! Nathan stepped forward and took hold of Rorie by the
shoulder, turning her away as the parents of the other kid also claimed their
miscreant and made to leave. The adults exchanged rueful glances.
Sitting her charge on a chair, Raine retrieved her shoes and put them on
for her. She was buckling the second one when the little girl with whom Rorie
had been fighting walked past with her parents on the way to the exit. The
child stuck her tongue out and the small blonde Southerner immediately retaliated
with a brutal kick to the shin.
Aurora! You will apologise. Now. Rorie glared at the horrified
Nathan but remained mute. Fine. We will deal with this at home. Go
get in the car. Raine gathered up the belligerent child and marched
her out to the Medics vehicle, leaving Nathan to apologise to the
childs parents and check for injury.
Having smoothed over the incident with the other couple, Nathan climbed into
the car and the drive back to the Standish house was completed in oppressive
silence. Once there, Rorie was hauled up in front of Vin while Nathan explained
what had happened.
Vin nodded and Nathan left.
The Texan turned to look at his small charge standing rooted to the spot
in the middle of the kitchen. When she was in trouble she knew better than
to leave before shed been dismissed. Her head was bowed but he could
see the shadow cast by the thrust out lower lip. She was sulking. He took
a seat on the kitchen chair and watched her, aware that he was much better
at maintaining his silence than she was. Eventually she raised her head and
looked at him, or rather glared green fire.
He raised his brows mildly, refusing to let her rile him.
Ya gonna tell me what happened? His voice was gentle and held
no hint of recrimination. Rories green eyes filled with tears but she
shook her head and looked away. He watched her for a few more minutes but
she didnt say anything. Fine. If ya want it like that, I kin
jist punish ya anyway an we kin fergit about it.
Tanner sighed. Sometimes she was a stubborn as Ezra. I cant help
ya iffn I dont know what the problem is. He waited. Nothing.
Go ta yer room Aurora. Yer grounded fer two days.
Without looking at him she stomped off up the stairs.
Ezra ran his hand through his hair. Hed
been on a tough undercover assignment with the team Profiler and had been
looking forward to relaxing with his daughter and his friend this evening.
He didnt need to come home to this.
Anything else? There was a collective shuffling of feet and he
sighed. I would conclude from your reactions that there is more. Who
would like to go next? He gazed around the group in the break room,
focussing on Buck as the ladies man cleared his throat.
The Previous Thursday
Did you just say No? Buck looked incredulously at
the normally agreeable child. She just met his look and shrugged.
Rorie, when Uncle JD tells you its bedtime, its bedtime.
Move. Now, young lady.
No. Rorie turned her back and went on to start another game on
JD reached over and pulled the plug.
Hey! Rorie glared at JD and threw the controller at him.
Youre such a meanie!
JD winced as the hard plastic handset hit him between the eyes. Bucks
reaction was immediate. He scooped the child up and quickly bathed her and
put her into bed. She protested the whole time, vehemently. He said not a
word in response but his roomy could see he was fuming.
You gonna punish me UNCLE Buck? She sounded snide. It didnt
No. Im going to leave that to your father. He switched
off the light and left her to stew.
Later, when JD crept into his bed, quietly so he wouldnt wake the child
on the cot, he was startled to hear her hiccup in her sleep. He tiptoed over
to check her, catching the remains of tears drying on the curved baby cheeks.
So she was rude, disobedient and aggressive
and then she cried herself to sleep. Ezra summarized.
Thats about it. I tried to get her to apologise to JD in the
morning but it wasnt happening. The Southerner nodded and turned
to Chris. Mr Larabee?
Chris gazed at his tired Agent. He didnt want to add to his problems
but he deserved to hear the truth. Taking a deep breath he started on his
own horror story.
Having heard from JD and Buck that Rorie
was miserable, Chris decided to leave early for the day. He collected Rorie
from the Standish house and they headed for the Ranch to take out the horses.
He hoped shed open up to him once they were on the trail. It had happened
before. The peace and solitude of being in the woods had that effect on both
They never even left the barn.
Chris was saddling Pony when he heard Rorie chastising the luckless Cleo.
He left what he was doing and walked down to the small ponys stall.
He was just in time to see Rorie lash out at Cleo as she dodged having the
Stupid mule! Stand still! Rorie smacked the placid mare on the
nose with the heel of her hand. Fortunately the mount had been carefully
selected by her father for her gentleness and instead of lashing out, and
possibly hurting the child, the little bay took a defensive step backwards,
away from her tormentor.
Reaching into the stall, Chris grabbed the angry child by the back of her
jeans and lifted her out. Slamming the door shut with his shoulder, he carried
her that way, wriggling and protesting, towards the porch. He sat on the
step, holding her firmly while she struggled to free herself.
Rorie soon realized that fighting with Uncle Chris was futile. She stilled.
What is the matter with you? The Larabee temper was barely
restrained. He hated to see horses abused and was horrified to find that
Rorie could lash out at a defenceless animal. There was no response and he
gently shook her. Answer me!
Two pairs of glaring green eyes duelled. Rorie looked away first but maintained
her stubborn silence.
I cant let this go Aurora. What you did was viscous and unnecessary.
Its fine to be angry. Everyone gets angry sometimes but you NEVER,
EVER take your anger out on a defenceless animal or on someone weaker than
you. Do you understand me?
Yes. Rorie glared at a spot between his feet. He waited.
Go to your room. There will be no riding until you can prove to me
that you know how to behave appropriately. He gave her a gentle shove
in the direction of Ezras Ranch bedroom where she was due to spend
the night. She went.
Later he took her a tray with milk and cookies before bedtime. She hadnt
had any supper. He found her curled up on the quilt staring at the wall.
Setting the tray down on the bedside table he gently rolled her over to face
him. She allowed herself to be manipulated but wouldnt meet his eyes.
Rorie? Chris stroked the hair away from her flushed face. She
didnt feel feverish. You want to tell me what that was about?
Why are you so angry?
Rorie just closed her eyes. Tears trickled down her cheeks but no matter
what he said she wouldnt talk to him. He spent an uncomfortable night
checking and rechecking his small charge. She slept fitfully, tossing and
turning and occasionally crying out but she still refused to tell him what
the problem was.
Ezra was both saddened and worried by this
story. Obviously his daughter was angry and upset by something and he
hadnt been here to help her. He turned to the Sharpshooter.
Vin? How has she been at home?
The lanky Texan sighed. It aint good, Ez. She wont talk
ta me. She takes her anger out on Olivia some, but its Terri whos
taken most o the abuse.
I hate eggs. Rorie shoved the
plate away, sending it skidding across the table until it shot over the far
edge and crashed onto the floor in a sticky, shattered mess.
Rorie! Terri gaped at the normally sunny child. The little girl
looked momentarily stunned at the effect of her outburst before taking on
a mutinous expression.
Vin had been upstairs, getting ready to head to the office to prepare for
the bust scheduled for later in the morning, but he came running at the crash.
He took in the scene of destruction in the kitchen in one glance.
What the Hell is goin on in here?
There was a silence. Olivia kept her gaze on her plate, pushing the food
around with her fork. Rorie sat sulking with her arms crossed over her chest.
The Texan turned to Terri who looked confused and worried.
She stepped over to the smaller girl and crouched down in front of her.
You usually eat eggs Sweetpea. Whats the matter?
Nothing. Leave me alone. She turned away from the concerned woman.
Rorie! Vins tone was warning and Terri sent him a stay
out of this look.
Sweetheart, why are you so angry with me? She placed a hand on
the small knee. Rorie smacked it away and jumped to her feet.
Dont touch me! I hate you! You make dumb eggs. My mummys
eggs are the best and I hate yours. She looked distraught. She made
a move to dart out of the kitchen and into the yard but was intercepted by
her much faster guardian.
Vin carried her up to her room and deposited her on her bed. She lay still
and he stood gazing down at her. He now had a good idea that her bad mood
had something to do with her mother but he had no idea what. He glanced at
his watch. He really had to get moving.
Aurora. You will stay in here until I get back. Well talk then.
Think about what ya wanna tell me cause I aint lettin this go
on. He gazed at the tearful face and shook his head. Leaning down he
placed a kiss on her curls. I love ya pumpkin. Ya kin tell me anything,
remember that. His departure was accompanied by renewed crying.
The others all gazed at the Undercover Agent, waiting for him to elaborate.
Eventually he raised his head and met their looks.
It was her birthday on Wednesday. I had forgotten. I assume Rorie has
been lost in memories of her mother.
Oh God. We kept making her go to her room which just gave her more
time to stew. JD knew from experience that the last thing one needed
when one had lost a loved one was to be idle. The busier the better. They
had unknowingly forced Rorie to be alone with her thoughts.
Do not fret Mr Dunne. Her deliberate actions more than justified the
punishment meted out. She has not previously displayed any reluctance to
remember or talk about Celeste and I cannot believe she has suddenly found
it too painful. Leaving her alone was not erroneous. Considering her appalling
behavior I think walking away was probably the best course of action.
He stood up and straightened his jacket.
Are we done? He looked over at Chris who nodded. Very well.
I think I will return home and deal with the latest crisis. Vin? Are we
Yep. I came in the Jag.
Thank God. I dont think I care to contemplate an extended journey
in your mobile tin can.
The two Agents were sitting on the back porch
drinking beer when Rorie appeared, fetched by Olivia. Once the other child
had gone Ezra motioned to Rorie to come and sit with him.
Her usual exuberant greeting was absent, a fact not unnoticed by the empathic
Southerner. She knew she was in deep trouble. She reluctantly allowed him
to lift her onto his knee. The three sat in silence for some time, and gradually
he felt the stiffness ease until she was relaxed, her back against his chest.
The adults continued to wait her out.
I forgot. The tremulous voice was soft but sounded loud in the
stillness of the sultry August afternoon.
Did you? The gentle, Southern-accented question was non-committal.
Ezra waited. Vin gazed silently at the sunset.
It was Mummys birthday. I forgot.
I promised Id remember her but I forgot her birthday the very
first time. I was too busy playing with Olivia and Terri at the park on Wednesday
and I forgot. Tears trickled down her face and she brushed them away
with the back of her hand. We were having fun and I didnt even
think about her. I only remembered on Thursday and then it was too late.
Her birthday was finished. She took the proffered handkerchief and
mopped her face. Mummy will hate me now. I hate me now.
Ezra turned her to face him. He was saddened by the distress on her face.
Honeybee, nothing you do could ever make your mummy hate you, any more
than you could do anything to make me or your Uncles or Terri and Olivia
hate you. That IS what you were attempting to achieve with your misbehaviour
was it not?
She nodded. Nobody should like me. Im a bad daughter.
Ezra laughed then, gold tooth glinting in the sunlight. She gaped at him
in astonishment. Daddy! Its not funny.
Dahling, you are not a bad daughter. Youre mine and I think
youre the greatest daughter anyone could ever have. I am completely
certain your mother agrees with me. He lifted her chin so he could
look into her eyes. Celeste would rather you had fun for her on her
birthday than have you moping around remembering her. The fact that you are
able to laugh and enjoy yourself is what she wanted most for you. I bet she
was there watching you play and every time you laughed it was like you gave
her a precious gift for her special day.
She looked doubtfully at him. You think so? He nodded. So
Im not a bad person?
Ill confess Im not best pleased with your disgraceful behavior
towards your family and friends but no, youre not a bad person.
She ignored his reference to her misdemeanors, hoping hed forget. I
wish I had done something special for her.
Ya still can iffn ya want ta. Vin spoke for the first time and
the two Standishes looked questioningly at him.
Theres a ceremony ya kin do. Ya have ta write what ya wanna say
on a paper and then we put it on a fire. The message is carried into the
smoke and sent ta every corner of the land by the winds. Yer Mama will get
the gift of yer words, carried in the breeze.
Ezra smiled gratefully at the Texan over the childs head. And
how are you familiar this ceremony Mr Tanner?
I used ta do it fer my Mama when I wanted ta tell her somethin
special. Aint done it fer years, but I got some things I kin say iffn
were makin the fire fer the spirit-talk.
The men sat around watching the dying embers
of the fire. Each one had taken part in the ceremony, sending their own messages
to people they had loved and lost. There was a sense of peace and tranquillity
amongst the group.
Rorie had dutifully apologised to everyone individually for her bad manners
and they had all hugged her and reassured the regretful child that all was
Where is she?
Ezra nodded towards the barn. I assume she is taking her apologies
seriously and is currently engaged in a conversation with her pony.
Laughing, Vin set off to see what she was up to. He didnt believe she
would actively seek trouble in there but one could never be too careful.
so if I ever get mean again just tell me Okay? Ill try
to remember to be nice. Rorie stood outside the stall, stroking the
soft nose hanging over her head. She didnt hear the silent tracker
approach and jumped when he spoke.
She fergive ya?
Rorie shrugged and grinned impishly at him. I have no idea. I dont
Tanner laughed, delighted to see the return of the smart-mouthed little minx.
I think she does. Thats what ya do fer people ya love.
She nodded. I love her too. She kissed the ponys velvety
nose and turned to Vin. Sensing she wanted to talk he settled down on a bale
of hay and lifted her onto his knee.
Mmmm? He carded his fingers through her hair.
Why is it a long time since you sent a message to your mama? Dont
you think about her anymore?
I think about her. Jest not all the time. I know shed a
wanted me ta git on with my life, an I know shes around iffn
I need her. I remember, but I dont think I have ta do it ever
day. Jest often enough that I dont fergit.
So I can remember Mummy even if I dont think about her all the
time? What if I forget something?
Ya wont. Slong as ya feel her with ya. Thats the
most important thing, that ya feel her in here. He placed the palm
of his hand over the left side of her chest, feeling the steady beat of her
heart beneath his fingers.
Everythin else, all the stuff ya done tgether, all the
little things, aint important. Ya have pictures ta remember that. The
thing ya mustnt fergit is how much ya love her. Iffn ya still got that
when ya look fer it, then yer rememberin jest fine.
She thought about that. Thanks Uncle Vin. She squeezed her arms
around his neck and kissed the stubbly chiselled jaw. I Love you.
Love ya right back Pumpkin.
To Atlantan Legacy XVI - When a Holiday's Not
Back to Atlantan Legacy Index
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