Atlantan Legacy XI - The Date

by Squeakypeep

Disclaimer: Not Mine.. no profit.

Acknowledgements: Mog’s Universe - Thank you.

This idea came from said feedback – thanks Meredith – and many of the scenes come from ideas which, although not exactly what was suggested, stemmed from the minds of others – See? I do listen!

Friday 29th June
Team 7 Offices

‘If you want, I can call around and find a date for you Ez.’ Buck Wilmington bounced his eyebrows at the Undercover Agent. ‘There’s Charmaine ‘Legs’ Bowen, or Mandy ‘Mammary’ Harte, or…’

Standish pulled a disgusted face. ‘Mr Wilmington please, I do not require your assistance. Since Miss Recillos has had to cancel, I will simply attend The Denver Law Enforcement Ball alone.’

Each year, on the last Friday in June, the State Governor would hold a formal ball for representatives of Colorado’s Law Enforcement Agencies in order to thank them for their dedication and hard work as well as honor those who had given their lives in the line of duty. The ATF sent two complete teams every year, as their contingent, and this year, owing to their lightening efficiency in clearing up the Neuman Case, Team 7 happened to be on down time at the crucial moment. Of course, in AD Travis’s eyes this made his top team prime candidates for the function. Much to their collective disgust.

‘Ya gonna go stag Ez?’ Vin leaned back in his chair, balancing at a precarious angle, and gazed at the undercover agent over the rim of his coffee cup.

‘I am indeed. I have no doubt that I could arrange another escort, one without the questionable monikers Mr Wilmington favours, but I would not care to explain it to Inez, or indeed to Rorie.’ Vin gave him an understanding look and he pulled a face. Rorie had accepted the Mexican Barkeep as his steady lady friend but wouldn’t look kindly on the sudden introduction of another woman. He had no doubt that she would somehow discover his change of partner and he did not intend to subject her to unnecessary stress.

Poor kid had had enough to deal with in the past few months.

‘You are escorting the fair Doctor Waterhouse?’ Standish focused the attention on the Texan, who nodded.


Chris emerged from his domain.

‘Okay boys.’ He glanced at this watch. ‘It’s four o’clock. Everybody go home and get ready for tonight. You are all expected at the Governor’s Residence at 8pm. In Black Tie. No jeans. No boots. No excuses.’ He concentrated his steady green gaze on the sharpshooter.

‘Got me a classy date, Cowboy. Gonna dress the part.’

‘Okay then. Later.’ He swung his briefcase and headed to the elevator bank.

Standish/Tanner Household

Rorie balanced, uncharacteristically motionless, on a stool. Her eyes closely followed Ezra’s every move as he stood in front of the mirror in his en-suite bathroom dressed only in boxers.

‘Hold out your hand.’ She did as he asked and he sprayed a dollop of shaving cream on her palm. He then squirted a larger amount on his own hand and turned towards her.

‘Are you prepared?’ She nodded, wide eyed.

‘Very well. Just do exactly what I do.’ He turned back to the mirror and spread the white froth on his jaw in smooth even strokes. Beside him Rorie splattered her share against her baby soft cheeks, smearing it liberally with both hands. It oozed thickly between wide spread baby fingers. She grinned at the sensation.

It smelled good.

It smelled like Daddy.

She clapped her sticky hands together in pleasure.

Ezra raised his brows at the liberal cascade of ‘snow’ that showered the mirror, the wall, the floor, the basin and the left side of his chest. ‘Very nice Dahlin’ but don’t do it again. You’re causing a blizzard thick enough to be picked up by local meteorologists.’ She chuckled and he grinned, quite sure she hadn’t a clue what a meteorologist was. No doubt that question would arise at a later date. Probably when he least expected it.

‘Have you finished the first stage?’ He looked down at her though the speckled reflection in the mirror and suppressed a laugh. She looked like a moth-eaten mini Santa. Green eyes blinked seriously at him through the white clumps clinging to her eyelashes. He snorted.

‘Okay then. We wipe the soap off our hands with our towels.’ They both put actions to words.

‘Stage two. Pick up your tool in your right hand.’ The muscles in the Southerner’s chest rippled as he reached for his favoured antique straight edged razor. Rorie mimicked his actions and grasped her own as he’d directed.

Ezra paused, the sharp blade hovering over his left cheek. ‘Smooth straight strokes Honeybee, one at a time, and then rinse the razor in the basin after each pass. Are you ready?’

‘Yahuh.’ Rorie assumed the position and her father winked at her.

‘Here we go.’ There was a rasping scrape as he drew the blade over his skin and a swish as he dipped it into the warm water filling the sink to clean off the accumulated soap and bristles.

Rorie copied him, disappointed that her tongue depressor didn’t make the same noise. ‘Daddy, I think mine’s broken. It’s not making any noise.’ She gazed up at him in mute appeal.

‘You are not allowed to touch a real razor Aurora, as you well know. Take that look off your face.’ He completed another pass and dipped the razor back into the water. Glancing at her again he suggested, ‘use your imagination and make the noise yourself if that helps.’

He reached up to begin another stroke and almost cut himself at the sound emitting from the tiny delicate blonde standing at his left elbow.

‘Rrrrr-sssssss-pppppp-rrrrrr-uuuu-ttttt!’ Rorie chuckled in delight and he paused his ablutions to watch her wash the sticky white goo off the slim wood. He grinned under his foamy beard and resumed his task.

Increasingly noisy sound effects were the only thing to be heard from the room for long minutes.

Finally, Ezra ran some fresh water onto a facecloth and gently wiped the messy residue off the pink flushed cheeks and out of the little ears.

‘Excellent! You will now be adequately prepared when you start to grow your own bristles.’

Rorie giggled and poked him in the ribs with a small soft finger. ‘You’re silly Daddy. I’m not gonna have a beard!’

Her father raised his brows at her in mock shock. ‘You’re not? Why not?’

‘Cause I’m a girl!’

‘You are?’ He tugged lightly on the belt loop of her miniature jeans. ‘I thought girls wore dresses?’

Rorie rolled her eyes and he laughed. ‘Out you go now. I’m going to take a shower.’

‘Can I stay and talk to you? I won’t get in the way I promise.’


‘Please Daddy. If you’re going out I’m not going to be able to talk to you at all tonight.’

Her logic was chronically flawed. She’d be in bed anyway and hardly likely to miss him. He looked at the desperate little face and uncharacteristically he caved.

‘Okay you may stay. But you’re not coming in with me.’ Rorie showed surprise at her uncommon victory. Usually when he told her to do something he stuck to his guns. He rarely allowed her to change his decision once made.


‘And don’t touch anything.’

‘Yes, Daddy.’ He eyebrows shot upwards. ‘I mean, no Daddy.’

Ezra stripped off the green silk boxers and stepped into the shower cubicle, turning on the water and adjusting the heat.

‘So how was Summer school?’ Regular school was out and Rorie was attending summer classes for kids with either a particular talent or a driving ambition. She was taking piano, dance and acting lessons.

There was a long silence, but for the hiss of the shower. ‘Okay.’

Ezra paused, letting the water tumble over his shoulders. ‘Is there something you want to tell me, Honeybee?’


‘’No’ there’s nothing to tell me or ‘no’ there’s nothing you WANT to tell me?’

Rorie pulled a face. Having an intelligent, astute parent was a pain in the ass, as Uncle Chris would say. She huffed. ‘The second one.’

‘Mmmm.’ Ezra massaged the shampoo through his hair. ‘You will tell me anyway, of course.’ Another pause. He rinsed the shampoo and reached for the bottle of conditioner. ‘Aurora? I’d rather hear about any misdemeanour directly from you. No secrets, remember?’

‘It’s nothing. Really.’

‘Am I going to have to ask you again?’ His voice held a clear warning.

‘No Daddy.’ She took a deep breath. ‘Janice MacKenzie was being mean to Tansy Delmar and I stood up for her. Tansy’s littler and Janice is a bully.’

‘Whilst I approve of your motives, I am still no clearer as to exactly what transpired. Elucidate.’ He scrubbed at his skin with a loofah and peered at her through the steamy glass door of the shower. She was twiddling her braids. Bad omen.

‘We had a show for the end of the week. Everyone had to do something. I played ‘The Sting’ on the piano without a single mistake!’ She tried redirection, not very hopeful that he would become distracted. He was extremely single minded when he chose.

‘Well done! I’m proud of you sweetheart.’ He waited a heartbeat. ‘Now quit stalling.’ He stepped back under the spray and rinsed the soap from his body.

‘Janice plays trombone.’


‘I sucked a lemon.’

Ezra bit his lip to keep from laughing. She had a definite flair for revenge. ‘What happened?’ He could imagine but wanted her to give him the whole story.

‘It made her mouth water. She dribbled into the mouthpiece. She started out Okay but by the time she was half way through her piece she sounded like a cow mooing!’ She considered that as Ezra shut off the water and reached for the towel. ‘Quite good really, ‘cause she is a cow.’ She sounded smug with her pronouncement. He frowned. There was no way he’d let that slide.

Stepping from the steamy cubicle with the towel wrapped snugly around his hips Ezra glared at her. ‘I am truly appalled that you could even think up such a reprehensible description, much less voice it. Don’t you EVER let me hear you refer to anyone as a ‘Cow’ again. Is that understood?’

Rorie thrust out her lower lip and hung her head muttering, ‘but it’s true!’

‘Aurora!’ He didn’t raise his voice, he never raised his voice. His tone, however, she had come to recognise, and to respect.

It meant business.

It meant he was losing patience.

It meant ‘Don’t argue with me or you will regret it’.

She peeked at him warily from under her brows. ‘Okay Daddy. I’m sorry. I won’t say it again.’

‘Good enough. You didn’t tell me what Janice did to Tansy that was mean.’

‘She told her, right before she had to play for the whole school, that her piano playing wasn’t worth… um… ah… something else I’m not s’posed to say. Tansy made even more mistakes than usual ‘cause she was crying so hard. I told Janice she’d make an even bigger mess of it when it came to her turn. She did too.’

‘I would imagine it is incredibly difficult to play the trombone whist salivating excessively.’ Ezra picked her up and threw her over his shoulder, carrying her into his bedroom, swinging her back and forth in his arms several times before tossing her in the middle of his bed in a chortling heap.

He was moving to the dresser to find some clean boxers when there was a knock at the door. ‘Ez? Kin I talk ta ya fer a minute?’

Standish nodded to his daughter and she climbed off the bed and threw open the door.

‘Hey Uncle Vin!’

‘Hey yerself pumpkin pie. Ez, Terri just called. Olivia got hit with a bat at little league and had to go get X-rayed. She’d just left for the hospital but says she probably won’t be back b’fore eleven at the earliest.’

‘Damn.’ The undercover agent looked non-plussed. ‘What about Mrs Welles?’

Tanner shook his head. ‘Teaching a class at the Adult Education Centre in Purgatorio. I called both neighbours but their teenagers are all out tonight.’ He shrugged and gazed at Rorie who was following the conversation with interest.

‘You could leave me here with a phone and a movie…’ she murmured hopefully.

‘Not a chance. You have to wait at least ten years to be home alone Baby Girl.’ She huffed.

‘Well then, you just have to stay home.’ She looked pleased at this prospect. The two ATF Agents exchanged glances.


‘Mr Tanner, don’t even voice that thought!’

‘What? She can be yer date. No reason why not. There was that kid last year escorting his mom and I know of two who are going this year.’

‘They are young adults Mr Tanner.’

‘Stop calling me that, Mister Standish. Rorie can behave like a young lady if she chooses ta. Whaddya say Pumpkin? Can ya be on yer best behavior an’ be yer Daddy’s date?’


‘I can! I can!’ In her excitement the little girl was bouncing up and down on the bed as if it were a trampoline. ‘I can be good as gold if I want to! Please Daddy! Please let me be your date!’ She looked at him imploringly.

Ezra released a slow breath. It would solve both the problem of a babysitter and the problem of an escort.


Rorie at the Governor’s House.

Rorie at a formal Dinner… with all the Senior Law Enforcement Personnel in the State.

He must be completely insane.

‘Miss Standish, would you do me the honor of escorting me to this evening’s engagement?’

Governor’s Residence

In keeping with long-standing tradition, the Standishes were late. Team 7 and their partners were all loitering around near the entrance, as far away from the orchestra as possible. Waiters bearing hors d’ouverves and glasses of champagne moved silently through the throng.

Chris just shook his head at his debonair Undercover Agent when Ezra attempted to excuse his tardiness. ‘Stop babbling Ez. Vin explained the problem.’ He glanced down at his favourite little prankster.

‘Good evening.’ He bowed formally from the waist, catching hold of the little girl’s hand and placing a soft kiss on her ‘not yet in evidence’ knuckles. As with all small children she merely had dimples where her knuckles would eventually appear. ‘I don’t believe we have been introduced. I’m Senior Agent Christopher Larabee and you must be Agent Standish’s charming escort.’

Rorie giggled and he chuckled in response. ‘It’s me Uncle Chris.’ She tugged his bowtie and he raised his brows.

‘You bear a striking resemblance to a small mischievous urchin I know. I have never seen that particular munchkin dressed so beautifully, however. You cannot possibly be the same child.’ He shook his head and squinted at her comically.

It was true, she did look gorgeous. The blonde curls on either side of her face had been caught up in a black velvet scrunchie which perched on the back of her head allowing the main cascade to tumble down her back in artful disarray. Her emerald green silk dress flowed down to her calves from the middle of her chest where it was held back with a black satin ribbon tied in a bow at her spine. The deep shade perfectly set off the gleam in the emerald eyes. She twinkled at him.

‘You also look very handsome tonight Uncle Chris. Black is a good color on you!’ Chris laughed out loud, causing more than a few heads to turn at this unusual occurrence.

‘Good evening Mrs Travis, it is a pleasure to see you.’ She turned the dimpled smile on Mary who chuckled.

‘Good evening to you too Miss Standish. Are we to expect any surprises tonight?’ Rorie shook her head, making the red-gold ringlets shimmer with fiery highlights.

‘I’m to be a Lady under any and all prov’cay’shun and not embarrass Daddy. We made a deal.’

‘Do you know what ‘provocation’ is Rorie?’ Josiah, standing tall and dashing in his tux, joined the conversation.

‘Yahuh. It means I can’t fight back!’ Everyone laughed and Ezra rolled his eyes.

‘It means you act with dignity and decorum regardless of the words or actions of others.’ Her sartorially elegant parent frowned at her.


By the time they were all seated the group were beginning to think the child in their midst was a small pod person. She was perched daintily at the table on a pile of cushions, her hands folded neatly in her lap, making polite conversation with the Gentleman seated to her right. He was the current Director of Denver’s Police Academy, a stocky, older man with a booming voice and a rumbling belly laugh. Ezra sat to her left and Vin and Doctor Jo, between Nathan and Casey, were directly opposite.


She gazed across the table at Nathan. ‘Yes Uncle Nathan?’

‘Nothing Sugar Plum. I was just checking it really was you in that pretty dress.’

The child bit her lip. Ezra was watching her out of the corner of his eye and could see her desperate attempt not to throw a quip back at Nathan. He exchanged knowing looks with the smirking Texan.

‘It certainly is me, Uncle Nathan.’

The Southerner chuckled and leaned slightly in her direction. ‘Well done Dahlin’!’ His voice was low so only she heard him. He winked when she sent him a pleading look.

‘Daddy this is hard!’

‘Ah know. You’re doing wonderfully. Ah’m extremely proud of you!’ His accent thickened with the emotion choking his throat. He really did feel immense pride in his little girl. She was outstandingly cute, incredibly intelligent and perfectly behaved. He had his doubts as to whether it would last but at this moment he was proud fit to bursting.

The slippery slope began to beckon with the arrival of the first course.

‘Daddy?’ She turned to him in a hushed whisper.


‘My soup’s cold!’

‘It is supposed to be served chilled. It’s gazpacho.’ He grinned at her ‘are-you-kidding-me?’ expression. ‘You don’t have to eat anything you don’t want. Just place the spoon on the side of the plate underneath and leave it.’

‘Thanks Daddy.’ She did as he suggested, pleased that the ‘you will eat what you’re given’ rule seemed to be in abeyance tonight.

When the soup plates were cleared away and the next course was laid before her, Rorie turned to the waiter and asked politely, ‘Excuse me, do you have any ketchup?’ There was a snort from Tanner as the young server’s mouth dropped open. Jo Waterhouse elbowed him in the ribs.

‘Never mind. Thank you.’ Rorie turned back to her plate, casting a quick look at Ezra. He just raised his brows but didn’t comment.

‘I think I can help you there, Rorie.’ Vin’s date was fishing around in her bag. She produced two MacDonald’s ketchup sachets. The men around the table gaped at her. ‘What? I’m a Paediatrician. You’d be surprised what kid friendly things I routinely carry around with me.’

Mary Travis, further down the table, laughed at the looks of amazement. She reached into her bag and pulled out a handful of ketchup sachets, a selection of plastic utensils, straws, paper napkins and some individually wrapped wet wipes labelled ‘Pizza Hut’. ‘Me too! Billy always seems to need something or other that’s not available, I have learned to be prepared.’

‘Ladies, while I admire your ‘Boy Scout’ tendencies, I do not consider ketchup a suitable condiment to Filet Mignon.’ Ezra shook his head. Ketchup made Rorie even more hyper than usual and he didn’t need that in the current circumstances. He glanced at Rorie. ‘One packet. No refills.’

Vin took a sachet from Jo and handed it over the table to the Undercover Agent. He tore the top and passed it to his daughter to squeeze onto the edge of her plate. If he’d thought about it he’d have done it for her but his actions were automatic. She loved to do as much as possible for herself.

He didn’t count on the interference of Murphy’s Law.

The little girl gripped the sachet in her right hand and squeezed.

At the same moment, her neighbour was expounding upon a particularly thrilling tale regarding the notorious ‘one-that-got-away’ with increasingly expansive hand gestures. He threw his arms wide to illustrate his point knocking the small child completely off her seat and into her startled father’s lap. Unfortunately, the blow to her elbow struck just as she tightened her fist on the ketchup packet. Her hand shot upwards, stopping abruptly at the end of her reach. The loose contents continued their forward momentum and flew from the container in a perfect arch straight across the table to land with a squelch on the bared cleavage of Doctor Waterhouse.

Jo leapt backwards and gazed down at the blood red splatter standing in stark contrast against her pale skin. It was slowly surrendering to the forces of gravity and disappearing between her breasts, tightly moulded together in the fitted bodice of her black evening gown. Beside her, Vin grabbed his linen napkin and thrust his hand into her dress to stem the flow before it could damage the taffeta. Jo, for her part, gasped at the initial contact but made no move to halt his delving fingers. She looked up into his face.

The Texan’s blue, blue eyes sparkled at her in humor. He grinned as he withdrew his fingers, carefully wrapping the sticky mess in the cloth. ‘Bin wondering how ta git down there!’ His words were low and intimate.

She chuckled and swatted his hands away. She whispered back at him. ‘Devious man! If I’d known ketchup was an aphrodisiac, I’d have let you take me to MacDonalds on our last date!’

Vin chuckled and turned back to the table. ‘Nice shot Pumpkin!’

Rorie was sitting on Ezra’s knee and he was rubbing her elbow comfortingly while glaring at the profusely apologising man who had swatted his daughter.

‘Rorie? Are you all right Honeybee?’ He looked down at the bent head. The curls danced as she nodded. Ignoring the fact his steak was rapidly cooling, he lifted her chin and looked at her face. The green eyes shimmered with unshed tears.

‘Dahling, are you hurt?’ Now he was worried. If that oaf had caused her any pain…

She shook her head and turned to look across the table at Jo. ‘I’m sorry Doctor Jo!’

Ever astute, Ezra concluded from her panicked tone that she was more concerned by her actions than by any pain. He glanced over the table at the Paediatrician, inclining his head towards the child and raising his brows. She nodded at him.

‘Hey Sweetheart! It wasn’t your fault, it was an accident. There’s no harm done. Uncle Vin managed to mop it up for me.’ She shot the smirking Texan a smouldering look, making him shift uncomfortably in his chair. ‘He’s right though, it was a very good shot!’

Rorie blinked at her and turned to look up at Ezra. ‘I’m not causing an emba’ssment?’ He shook his head and winked. ‘It really was an accident, Daddy.’

‘I know. These things happen. Everything is fine Rorie, you’re doing beautifully, I promise. Are you ready to eat your dinner?’ She nodded and he set her back on the pile of cushions. ‘Perhaps, if the good Doctor wouldn’t mind, we could have that other packet?’ Jo nodded and reached again for her bag.

‘Thank you, but I think I’ll eat it as it is.’ Ezra grinned and leaned over to cut up the food for her so she could manage without the sharp serrated knife by her table setting. He removed the dangerous utensil, just in case.

Dinner progressed without further incident until it was time for coffee and the dreaded Annual Performance Overview speeches.

‘May I have coffee?’


‘Please Daddy.’

Ezra raised one eyebrow and she subsided. He grinned inwardly. Now the boundaries had been established in their relationship he found he could control her with a simple change in his expression. A frown or a raised brow was usually enough to get her compliance. She was always eager to gain his approval.

Ezra handed her a wafer thin mint in consolation and smiled at her painfully polite thank you. She was trying so hard to be good.

There was a tap on the microphone at the raised podium behind the head table. The Governor spoke into the microphone. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, if I may have your attention, please.’ The crowd murmur subsided until only the occasional clink of a spoon against a cup could be heard. ‘Thank you. As you all aware, over the past year Colorado has been facing a notable increase in the number of reported violent crimes. It is with these statistics at the forefront of our minds that we are…’ His voice droned on.

JD sat in his chair and made paper animals from the invitations and menus. With permission from Ezra, Rorie slipped over to his side and climbed on his knee, delighted with the miniature Zoo he had created, and particularly with the origami frog which jumped when she pressed his bottom. This game kept her amused until the speaker started speaking about ‘losses’.

‘Many of you will recall that at last year’s Ball, in memory of those who had given their lives for the Preservation of Law and Order in the State of Colorado, we were treated to a rendition of ‘Eternal Flame’, performed by the wife of one of our Aspen based Police Officers, Mrs Gillian Redman.’

‘This year, while we remember our fallen comrades, she planned to perform ‘Tears in Heaven’. It is with considerable courage that Gillian has agreed to fulfil her promise. I say with courage, because Officer Derek Redman joined the ranks of those we honor when he was shot dead in a gangland battle in April.’ He turned to the wall screen behind him where the faces of five officers were shown in stark black and white. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, our fallen friends, Agent Martin Chance, Officer Francine Delmoine, Officer Derek Redman, Agent David James Tilman and Deputy Ted Zillanski. We salute you.’ He raised his glass to the photographs.

‘We salute you.’ Every Officer, Agent and Lawman in the room joined the chorus.

The haunting opening bars of Eric Clapton’s ‘Tears in Heaven’ floated softly from the orchestra on the band platform. Standing at the microphone in the harsh glare of a spotlight, a small brunette began to sing

Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven
Would it be the same
If I saw you…

Her voice cracked and she faltered, grinding to a stumbling halt. The Orchestra trailed off.

She started again but this time didn’t get past the first line.

There was a painful silence.

Suddenly a small child with tumbling strawberry blonde ringlets and a green frock materialized at her side. The child took the hand of the distraught woman. Their quiet conversation was audible to everyone in the room, captured by the microphone.

‘It’s hard isn’t it? Will you let me help you?’

Wiping the tears from her eyes Gillian gazed down at the tiny solemn child. ‘You know the words?’

‘Yahuh. I sang this song at Mummy’s fune’al. She died in March, right before Easter. It was really hard to sing ‘cause my neck was all stuffed up.’

‘Your Mummy died in March?’

‘Yahuh. She was very sick. You know where she lives now?’ The tearful woman shook her head. ‘She lives in here.’ Rorie tapped her chest. ‘That’s where people we love go when they die. S’long as we remember them that’s where they are. It’s kinda cool really ‘cause they’re always around if you want to talk to them.’

The bereaved wife of Officer Redman let out a strangled whimper and leaned down to hug the small child who was trying to comfort her. ‘Thank you Sweetie. What’s your name?’

‘Aurora Standish. You can call me Rorie.’

‘Are you ready to help me sing Rorie?’


The orchestra started for the third time and the two clear voices rang out over the room full of stunned spectators.

Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven
Would it be the same…

At Team 7’s table Chris Larabee pinched the bridge of his nose between closed eyes, attempting to stop the prickle of moisture threatening to spill over. Mary Travis held tightly to his other hand, trying to swallow the lump in her throat.

Vin held a tearful Jo against his shoulder as they listened to the song and remembered those they had lost.

Nathan thought about his father, who had died less than a year before. He wished he’d taken the chance to tell him how much he loved him before he passed away. He leaned over and kissed Raine’s brow. She stroked his sleeve with the palm of her hand.

Buck watched JD’s doleful brown eyes glisten, giving him a reassuring smile when their eyes met. JD silently thanked his dead mother for sending him six older brothers. He returned Buck’s smile.

Josiah watched the green-eyed Southerner, concerned by the depth of loss etched into his shadowed face.

Ezra sat in a daze, completely unaware of the tears pouring down his cheeks. He grieved in painful silence.

Not for the slain officers, tragic though that was.

Not for Celeste who, even in death, had given him the greatest gift any woman could give.

Not for his father, killed before Ezra really knew him, nor for the mother he’d never really had.

Ezra grieved for Rorie.

The intense love he had for his daughter overwhelmed him. How could he have been so blind?

She had had to suffer the prolonged death of her mother, alone. At her tender age she had had to learn to deal with her profound loss, alone. She had had to cope with having her life completely altered, alone.

He, Ezra P Standish, a man who prided himself on being able to read anyone, had been so caught up in the joy and wonder of new parenthood that he had ignored the fact that the child who gave him such immense pleasure every moment of every day was still mourning the loss of her mother.

How could he have forgotten that?

Ezra blinked as a heavy hand came down on his shoulder. He turned to the Profiler.

‘Don’t Ezra. Don’t think you haven’t been there for her while she grieved. You’re wrong.’

‘Josiah, how can you say that? I have done nothing to help her.’

‘Yes you have. You have been there for her every step of the way. She loves you. If and when she wants to talk about Celeste she will tell you. In the meantime she’s doing great.’ He gestured towards the stage. ‘She is able to help others through their own loss BECAUSE she’s coping so well. She knows you are there for her if she needs you. You are her rock. If she were in trouble she would either rant and rave or bottle it up. She does neither. Celeste prepared her before she died, I have no doubt about that. You have helped by simply being her ‘Daddy’. You have not avoided talking about her mother but you have not made a big scene about it either. Look at it this way. You give her the space to be herself and yet at the same time she knows you are there in silent support if she does need you. Short of bringing her mother back, what else COULD you do?’

Ezra gave Josiah a watery smile, pulling out his handkerchief and wiping his face. ‘Thank you Mr Sanchez. As always your eloquence gives me great comfort. I am grateful you managed to refrain from finding an obscure story to illustrate your point in some oblique way only you can fathom.’

Josiah grinned. ‘You’re welcome. I think!’

As the music faded away Gillian Redman bent down to the little girl and gave her a big hug. They exchanged a few words, inaudible over the applause and stepped off the podium into the main body of the room.

A few moments later, Rorie appeared back at Ezra’s elbow.

‘Daddy? Are you angry with me?’ He shook his head and pulled her onto his lap, tucking her head under his chin and cuddling her against his chest.

The Governor rose to close the speeches.

‘Thank you Mrs Redman. I assume Miss Standish belongs to Agent Standish of ATF Team 7?’ He received a nod from AD Travis who was seated at the main table. ‘Thank you Young Lady, for sharing your wisdom with us. You are correct. We will remember them. Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for your hard work this year. I hope to see you all safely back here in twelve months. For now there is dancing in the courtyard, cards in the dining room and the Bar is open, have an enjoyable evening and thank you all for coming.’

Chairs began to scrape against the floor as many of the three hundred odd guests rose to their feet to move around. The noise level increased dramatically.

The group at Team 7’s table split up. Casey, JD, Vin and Jo headed out to the courtyard where a DJ was beginning to blast out the latest dance music. Everyone else moved towards the bar.


Standish turned to Buck. ‘I can take Rorie for a while if you want to play cards.’

He was tempted. ‘Rorie?’

‘Can we dance Uncle Buck? If that’s okay with Miss Stacey?’ The redhead nodded, saying she intended to play cards at some point and this would be the ideal opportunity if Rorie would entertain Buck.

Outside they joined the hoards thundering around on the flagstones. Buck clasped the giggling child to his chest and gyrated to the beat, swinging her round with great enthusiasm.

‘Rorie!’ He had to shout to be heard. She nodded and mouthed ‘what?’

‘I just wanted to tell you what you did tonight for that lady was very kind. I was very proud of you.’

She grinned at him, bobbing her head to the music, and kissed his cheek. He swung her around again and they moved off for a circuit of the dance floor. They were halfway round when they came across JD and Casey. With mutual agreement the men swapped partners.

JD propped the little girl on his hip and clasped her hand out in front of them, arm stretched. They proceeded to perform a parody of a Tango. They were both in fits of hysterics when Vin and Jo literally stumbled over them.


‘Hey Vin, Jo.’ JD grinned at them.

Jo decided to take a rest, she was no slouch in the fitness department but frankly the Texan had her beat. JD offered to escort her back to the bar to find the others and Vin scooped up Rorie and set about jiving.

The two had danced together at home quite a lot, to various types of music. Ezra had a huge range of musical styles in his collection and when she danced with him she liked to slow dance, just because she didn’t actually have to dance but got to cuddle up to his chest while he rocked her. With Vin she liked jiving the best. He’d throw her around with abandon, turning her upside down, sliding her across his shoulders or around his back. Their preferred music was Elvis but the current tune, Queen’s ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’, was okay too.

By the time the music changed again they’d gathered quite an audience. Hurriedly shuffling off to one side, the color staining his cheeks owing more to embarrassment than exertion, Vin came face to face with the elder Travis’s.

‘Good evening Mrs Travis, Sir.’ Vin pinched Rorie’s leg and she parroted ‘Good evening.’

‘Hello Vin. You must be Rorie.’ Evie Travis smiled at the flushed little girl on Vin’s hip as she nodded, yes. ‘I’ve heard a lot about you. I’ll be looking forward to getting to know you better at Chris’s 4th of July barbeque. I have to tell you though, before Vin bears you away, that I think the things you said tonight were very nice. My son died a few years ago and your words made me remember him fondly. Thank you.’

Rorie looked at the attractive grandmotherly woman solemnly. ‘You’re welcome.’

Taking their leave Vin grew concerned at the child’s silence. ‘Pumpkin? Ya okay?’ She nodded against his shoulder but remained quiet. ‘Ya wanna take a walk around the garden with me?’

She raised her head and looked into his concerned blue eyes. ‘Yahuh. That’d be good Uncle Vin. ‘Specially if you carry me.’

Vin laughed. ‘It ain’t a walk if ya ride, pumpkin, but since yer m’ favourite short person I’ll give ya a lift.’ Vin strolled around the grounds, the little head on his shoulder, telling her about the stars and the animal noises they could made out over the muted sounds of the party. By the time he arrived back at the bar where the rest of the team were gathered she was sound asleep and drooling on his tux.

Ezra smiled at the picture they presented and made his excuses. Taking the slumbering bundle from the Sharpshooter he bade everyone goodnight and left to retrieve the Jag.

Saturday 3am
Ezra’s bedroom

He came awake abruptly, recognizing another presence. Sensing no threat, Ezra glanced around and saw his pyjama clad daughter, standing silent and still in the shadows beside the bed. Wordlessly he lifted the covers in invitation, waiting until she climbed in beside him.

Rorie shuffled around getting comfortable, finally settling flat on her belly, straddling her father’s chest.

Ezra could feel the gentle huff of her breathing against his skin. He knew she was still awake and waited patiently to find out what was bothering her. Eventually, after considerable time had passed, she spoke.

‘Daddy? Are you awake.’



‘What for? You haven’t done anything wrong.’

‘I woke you up.’

‘That’s okay dahlin’. You can talk to me whenever you want, even in the middle of the night, you know that. Are you ready to tell me what’s on your mind?’

She was silent again for a minute.



‘Why did everyone make such a fuss about what I said to that Lady? It was only the truth.’

Ezra paused. Josiah’s words ran through his head. He needed to downplay it, not make more of a scene, or as she termed it, a fuss.

‘Yes it was the truth. It wasn’t so much what you said, honeybee, as how you said it. Mrs Redman was sad because her husband had died. Many grown-ups don’t know what to say to people who have lost a loved one. You had the courage to express what most adults don’t.’

‘Why don’t they? Is it bad to talk about it?’

‘No. It’s good to talk about it, if you can say what’s in your heart without causing more pain. Most people are afraid they will say the wrong thing and so they say nothing at all. You stood up there tonight… last night… and the manner in which you spoke, straight from the heart, gave comfort to someone who was hurting. I was very proud of you. I know it must still hurt when you think about your mom.’

‘Sometimes I guess. I miss not having her to cuddle and the way we did stuff together. We had a lot of fun. But y’know it’s true that I can still tell her about my day and show her my work and play piano for her. I just can’t see the soppy look on her face when I do it. Sometimes, when I’m having fun with you, or with Uncle Vin or Uncle Buck or one of the others, I think about her and how she must be laughing at my mischief. She laughed a lot.’

He placed a gentle kiss on her curls. ‘I know. I remember her too.’

‘But then I remember she’s here,’ she squished her hand between their bodies and tapped her chest, ‘and I know she’s having fun with me on the inside.’

Ezra smiled at the innocent way she expressed herself. Things were so much clearer to a child.

‘I bet she is.’

‘She used to say you’d bet on anything!’ Ezra chuckled. Rorie pressed her ear tight against his skin and listened contentedly to the rumble.

There was another long pause. Sensing she hadn’t finished he waited in silence.

‘Daddy?’ Her voice dropped to a whisper.

‘Yes Dahlin’?’

‘Can I tell you something awful?’

Craning his neck he looked down at the top of her head with concern.

‘Sweetheart you can tell me anything.’ He held his breath.

‘I’m glad she died.’ His mouth fell open and he snapped it shut. This was dangerous ground. He’d have to tread warily if he wasn’t to alienate her completely.

‘Why would you be glad Rorie?’ His voice was gentle.

‘She was very sick. She pretended that she was okay when I was there but her face was grey. I think she’s happier now.’

‘I see. So you’re glad because she doesn’t hurt anymore?’

‘Yahuh. I don’t have to be sad. I can still be happy and have fun. Do you see?’ He nodded and then realised she couldn’t see him.

‘Yes I understand. That’s not awful, honeybee. That’s a good thing. You would rather miss her than have her here and in pain. It means you loved her a lot.’

‘Yeah. I think it’s kinda cool ‘cause she’s happy now and so am I.’

‘You are?’

‘Of course. I have you and Uncle Vin and a whole big family. There’s always someone to play with, or talk to or play pranks on and that’s fun to have. Mummy’s still here even if I can’t see her. And now I’ve got you to give me cuddles and kisses and…’

‘Punishments, don’t forget those, and vegetables, and trips to the dentist, and…’

‘Daddy! You’re silly.’ She chuckled and he laughed.

‘I had fun tonight, Daddy. Thank you for letting me be your date.’ She yawned widely.

‘I had fun too Honeybee. Thank you for coming with me. You were beautifully behaved and I was very proud of you.’

‘G’night Daddy. I love you’

‘Good night, Sweetheart. I love you too.’ But she was already asleep.

The End

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