Atlantan Legacy III - I'm A WHAT?

by Squeakypeep

Disclaimer : Not Mine.. no profit.

Acknowledgements: Mog's Universe - Thank you.

Warning: OFC

Atlantan Legacy Index

I thrive on feedback - the faster it comes the faster I seem to write. Rorie seems to have prompted a big response - I can't resist it. I have a couple more ideas for this munchkin - but many emails asked to see Maude's reaction to Rorie and made a lot of different suggestions as to what it would be. I must confess that, with the exception of Atlantan Legacy (which I told the M7elf would be a standalone - sorry Joy), none of these have been planned out in advance, they just grow. They're as much a surprise to me writing them as to anyone else. I'm writing this note first (it's at the top of the page after all) and I still don't know how Maude is going to act. I've not written her before but I'll give it a go!

Comments: - be nice.

Denver Academy for the Exceptionally Gifted

Principal's Office.

Tuesday 28th March

'Good Morning, Mr Standish, I'm Charles Sinclair, Principal here at DAEG. Please, take a seat.' The two men shook hands and Ezra slipped into the seat indicated.

Principal Sinclair eased his considerable bulk into the high-backed black leather chair opposite his visitor, putting his elbows on the desk and steepling his hands. He regarded the well dressed man before him in silence.

The green eyed ATF Agent gazed back, completely comfortable. Sinclair was surprised by this. Usually the parents of prospective students were fidgetty when seated before him but this man seemed totally at ease. He waited. And waited. Nothing.

Finally an elegant eyebrow raised but still the father of the latest applicant made no comment. Sinclair chuckled.

'You're not intimidated by me at all are you?' The eyebrow went higher. 'I only ask, Mr Standish, since most parents are so keen to have their prodigy declared 'Exceptional' that they arrive in my office in a high state of nervous tension. It is unfortunate that I usually have to disappoint them.'

Ezra gazed back unsmiling. 'Principal Sinclair, I believe you have details of my employment in your file. Your elevated position leads me to conclude that you are a gentlemen of exceptional intelligence, astute enough to appreciate that such unwarranted displays of emotion could seriously hinder my ability to succeed in my chosen profession.'

Charles Sinclair blinked and then nodded in acknowledgement of the other man's keen observation, to say nothing of his obvious inellect. 'Indeed.'

Ezra remained impassive.

The Principal opened the single manila folder on his desk.

'Aurora Celestine Standish, 3 years, 11 months...' He scanned down the page. 'Mmmm.' He closed the file and, leaning back in his chair, smiled at his guest.

'I see a lot of your daughter in you Mr Standish. I think you also may have presented somewhat of a challenge to your instructors?'

Ezra eyed him warily but nodded. 'In hindsight, Sir, I think you are probably correct, although I doubt my own tutors possessed a fraction of your flair for diplomacy.'

Sinclair smiled. 'It is part of the job these days. Your daughter is entering a system much more sympathetic to children whose needs cannot be met in the mainstream, either because they are gifted or because they are, shall we say, educationally challenged.'

Thinking of Vin's battle with undiagnosed dyslexia and his own miserable years as a small-of-stature child at the mercy of children at least a couple of years his senior, Ezra muttered, 'I sincerely hope so.'

'It is the purpose of this Academy to nurture those who, in a regular school, may feel it necessary to hide their intelligence in order to avoid being tortured for it. Children can be particularly cruel to one who is perceived as different. Busy teachers often cannot cope with a child who needs to be extended and the child becomes bored and disruptive. Almost without exception the brightest children fail to develop to their full potential.'

Ezra nodded in understanding and the Principal opened the folder once again, perusing the front page for a few moments in silence. Eventually he raised his head.

'It is rare Mr Standish that those of us in the educational field have reason to arrive at our desks in the morning with a feeling of anticipation...' he trailed off and Ezra watched him with an unreadable expression.

'Following the report from Atlanta's 'Academy for High Achievers', Aurora was assessed by our Senior Educational Psychologist. Shortly after the conclusion of her interview, he spent an hour in the teacher's lounge regaling us with the antics of our latest applicant.'

Standish winced. 'Oh Lord. What did she do this time?'

The fat man chuckled. 'Nothing to cause you any undue embarrassment, Mr Standish. Let's just say she has quite an... interesting sense of humor.' He glanced down at the file again, turning the top page, and Ezra caught sight of a childish scrawl.

'She completed the assigned tasks with surprising efficiency. We were able to determine that Aurora's reading ability is approxmiately that of an average seven year old and her math, somewhere between seven and eight. Her general knowledge, although somewhat patchy, is still well ahead of her age group.' He paused. 'We did experience some difficulties with her concentration skills but that is not altogether surprising given that her social and emotional development correspond with her chronological age.'

'However...' he paused, gazing steadily at Ezra who had the sudden urge to leap to his feet and forbid this man from saying anything negative about HIS little girl, at gunpoint if necessary, '...she does not appear to appreciate being set problems she considers beneath her intellect.'

'When faced with the question, 'What is Grey, has big ears and a trunk?', she replied ' A mouse on vacation.' He grinned and Ezra relaxed enough to smile slightly in return. 'We skipped a couple of pages and tried to hold her interest by giving her more of a challenge.'

'During the tests designed to ascertain her knowledge of geography she was asked where you would find Koalas. She apparently smiled at the teacher disarmingly and told him, 'Depends where you left them.'

Ezra snorted. Sinclair's grin widened.

'She was asked by the School Medical Officer whether or not she was allergic to anything to which she replied 'Discipline'.' Ezra grinned.

'That would be an accurate assessment' and the other man laughed.

'Our music professor handed her a recorder and asked if she could play anything on it. He was told that it rather depended on whether or not he wanted an actual tune. She then took over his piano and performed a spirited, if somewhat haphazard, rendition of 'Yellow Rose of Texas'. Our IT instructor... Well I could go on.. '

'I think I would prefer that you didn't.' The principal laughed at the weary, resigned declaration and Ezra smiled faintly in response.

'Quite frankly, Mr Standish, we would be delighted to offer Aurora a place at Denver Academy.'

Team 7Office

Federal Building

The elevator 'pinged' and the dapper Undercover Operative stepped smartly out into the bullpen.

'Ez.' Vin was on him in an instant.

'Mr Tanner.' Ezra made his way over to his desk, Vin trailing behind. 'Ez? Ez? Ezzzzz?'

He was joined by the rest of the team. Chris came out of his office.


'Well what Mr Larabee?' Ezra sipped slowly at the Starbuck's cappuchino, inhaling the aroma and eyeing his audience over the rim of the insulated cup.

'Goddamnit, Ezra...'

Standish raised his brows at their frustrated faces. They were such a joy to torment.

'She starts on Monday.'

'Yes!' Vin and JD high-fived each other. Josiah and Nathan exchanged satisfied looks as if to say they'd known all along that Rorie would win a place and Buck was grinning like a loon.

Ezra smiled at his friends, a warm feeling in the pit of his stomach. The six hard-assed ATF Agents, scourge of the criminal element, had taken his pint-sized hellion straight into their hearts. Each one of them behaved as if they'd been individually responsible for teaching her everything she knew.

'So, tell us, what did they say?' Chris wanted the details.

'They want her to compete for a scholarship which is to become available in August.' Ezra beamed proudly. 'Apparently, the most promising...' He broke off as the phone on his desk began to ring, automatically picking it up.

'Standish.' He made a face and the others exchanged glances.


'Hello Mother. Thank you for returning my calls' he paused. 'No, Mother I know how busy you are and would not presume to criticise... Yes Mother... Ah, yes well, there we have the crux of the matter. If you could hold for one moment while I remove to a more private... No, Mr Tanner is not eavesdropping,' Ezra raised his eyebrows at Vin, not prepared to inform his mother that ALL his colleagues were listening quite blatantly. '...Just one moment.' He put his mother on hold, cutting off the audible spluttering.

'Gentlemen, I will take this in the conference room.' He moved away and shut the door behind him.

'Can you imagine Maude's face - 'I'M A WHAT?' Buck raised his voice in a soprano squeal.

Josiah rubbed his chin reflectively. 'Somehow I can't see Maude allowing our imp to call her Grandma.'

'She'd better not say anything mean to that kid, she just lost her mum.' JD said worriedly. 'Look how she treats Ez.'

Vin patted the younger agent on the back in a gesture of reassurance. 'We'll jest have ta make sure the ol' witch don't git her alone.' He met the eyes of each of his fellow 'Uncles'. The six made a silent pact. The Team 7 'pack' were reknown for being highly protective of one of their own and that little hellion was definitely theirs.

'One must also consider brothers, that Maude has just been handed a new weapon with which to inflict pain on her son.' Josiah met Chris's eyes, a thoughtful expression on the grizzled face. 'Whether or not she chooses to wield that weapon, remains to be seen.'

'Josiah's right. We'll need to keep a close eye on Ez too.' The leader looked at each team member in turn, receiving acknowlegement from each.

Ezra emerged from the conference room, blissfully unaware of just how far his friends would go to protect him and his 'cub'. Chris searched his face which, as usual, told him nothing. 'How'd it go?'

The undercover man allowed a grimace to cross his features. 'She was not pleased. She had the audacity to suggest that I had become the victim of a con designed to relieve the natural parents of their fiscal responsibility...'

'She'd know all about palming your kid off on other people.'

Ezra nodded at Wilmington. 'True.' He sighed. 'She attempted to persuade me to undertake a paternity test.'

Vin laughed and Ezra raised an eyebrow, 'You find something humorous in that, Mr Tanner?'

'Com'on Ez, have ya looked at that kid? Ain't no way she could be anyone else's.'

Ezra smiled proudly, 'She does favour me does she not?'

'Yeah, and I've got the moustache to prove it!' Buck rubbed his fingers over his upper lip where his once pride and joy was attempting to make a comeback.

'Or rather you haven't.' JD giggled and got a cuff on the head.


'So, is she coming or not Ezra?' Nathan wanted to know if they needed to devise a battle plan.

'Indeed Mr Jackson, I was unable to dissuade her. She will arrive on Friday evening, at about eight.'

Chris was thinking fast. 'I was going to get everyone over to the ranch for pizza and a movie on Friday... we can move it to your place, we'll be there by 7.30. Okay, everyone back to work.' He clapped his Undercover Agent on the back and disappeared back into his office, shutting the door.

Ezra gaped after him and then met Vin's eyes as everyone dispersed to tackle their ever present mountains of paperwork.

'Shut yer mouth Ez, it ain't that surprising. Ya didn't think they'd let her git anywhere near 'their' baby girl did ya?' Vin grinned at him. 'Dad's jest makin' sure ya have plenty o' back-up, ya know how he kin be.' Vin winked and left to refill his coffee cup leaving an astounded Ezra in his wake.

Friday Evening

Standish Home

Maude Standish arrived at her son's new home and stepped elegantly from the back of the cab. She stood impatiently, tapping her foot, as she waited for the driver to unload her copious amount of luggage and then paid him the exact amount shown on the meter, thirty-three dollars and twenty five cents. 'Gee, thanks Lady.' Maude ignored the dirty look and the screech of tyres as the vehicle pulled away.

She looked up at the old building, a look of distaste briefly marring the beautiful face. It was not the first time her son had bought a wreck of a house, overseen the renovations and sold it at a healthy profit, but this was the first time he'd moved into one. Besides which, this one was a monster.

Leaving the baggage on the sidewalk she navigated the weed-strewn pathway and rapped imperiously on the front door.

'Evenin' Ms. Maude.' The door was swung open by the scruffy Texan her son had chosen as a friend.

'Mr Tanner.' Maude spied Buck Willmington lurking in the hallway and frowned at both men as she moved inside. 'I am somewhat surprised to find you gentlemen here, but since you are, my luggage if you please.' She waved a regal hand towards the roadside.

Remembering their promise to Ezra to not deliberately antagonize her, both men acquiesed without comment, but not before sending poisonous looks at her back.

Standing in the hallway, tugging on the fingers of her calf gloves, Maude watched Chris Larabee approach from the rear of the house.

'Mrs Standish.'

'Mr Larabee.'

The two 'Alphas' stared at each other with thinly veiled hostility.

'Uncle Chris! Uncle Chris!' A small blonde-pigtailed dynamo in scarlet jeans and matching hooded sweatshirt came thundering down the staircase, a growling Josiah hot on her heels. 'I'm Little Red Riding Hood and that mean old wolf wants to eat me! Don't let him get me!' She threw herself giggling at Chris's legs, gripping him round his knees and nearly toppling him to the floor.

'Aurora Standish! Ya know better 'an ta run in the house. Put Uncle Chris down an' greet yer guest. Ya got better manners 'n that!' Vin carelessly dumped the Louis Vuitton suitcases beneath the pile of coats hung haphazardly behind the front door. Buck added his to the pile with a thud.

Maude had been staring at the urchin, but turned to the men to chastise their treatment of her luggage. 'Gentlemen, and I use the term loosely, those suitcases cost more than you earn in a month. Show some respect, if you please.'

'Yeah well,' Buck nudged Vin in the ribs, 'some of us 'Gentlemen' are looser than others.'

Vin looked at the little girl who'd taken a couple of steps backwards when confronted with Maude's sharp voice and was now standing slightly behind Josiah, one arm wrapped around his thigh as she leaned against his leg. 'Whatcha bin doin' pumpkin?'

'Playing.' Rorie stared at Maude, who stared back.

Chris and Vin exchanged concerned looks. In true Standish fashion, Rorie never answered with one word when ten would do.

Josiah leaned down and untangled the child, picking her up so she could meet her Grandmother on her own level. 'Aurora?' He waited and then gave a gentle pinch to the ribs under his fingers. She wriggled but continued to stare silently at the elder Standish.

'Mother?' Ezra came out of the kitchen. He took his mother's hands and the two 'kissed air'. 'Your timing, as usual is impeccable. Dinner will be served momentarily.' He met Vin's concerned eyes and gave a small negative shake of his head.

'I see you have met Aurora.' He smiled at his mother, but his eyes were hard.

Maude was slightly taken aback. Her son was protecting his infant. This was an interesting development. She returned his smile. 'Actually, darlin' we haven't been introduced.'

'Allow me.' He reached out to the little girl who immediately left Josiah's arms to settle on her father's hip. 'Mother, this is Aurora Celestine, Rorie, this is your grandmother, Maude.'

Rorie had been observing the byplay between the newcomer and those she considered her family. Usually friendly, she wasn't sure she liked this person, even if she was pretty.

'How do you do?' Maude made the first move and held out her hand which Rorie reluctantly took and shook. She shot a quick glance at Uncle Vin and then said sweetly and with a look of complete innocence, 'How do I do what?'

Maude's mouth dropped open and she rapidly snapped it shut.

Vin and Buck both started to laugh, hastily supressing it when Ezra frowned at his daughter. 'Aurora!'

'My 'pologies Ma'am. Just a little joke. I'm pleased to make your 'quaintance.' She looked at her father who nodded approvingly and winked at her.

'Rorie, you may wash your face and hands in the kitchen. Gentlemen if you please.' The four men nodded to Maude and headed towards the back of the house.

'Mother, if you'd care to freshen up, the bathroom is through there,' Ezra, ever the consummate host, indicated a shaded doorway, 'please join us when you are ready. We will be eating in the dining room.' He headed off down the corridor, Rorie staring at her grandmother over his shoulder as she was borne away.

In the kitchen, Buck, who was banned from partaking in the preparation of food, helped Rorie wash up while the others finished the cooking and ferried platters into the Dining room. Shortly everyone was seated and they settled down to eat.

Unable to stand it any longer, JD broke the uncomfortable silence.

'This is good Ez, what is it?' He poked at the food with his fork as he spoke and Maude winced but it was she who answered.

'I believe it is called 'Imperial Lamb' Mr Dunne.'


There was a pregnant pause until another forced conversation started between Buck and JD, with Nathan and Josiah soon being drawn in.

The other end of the table, with Vin, Chris and the three Standishes, continued to eat silently. The men watched Maude watch Rorie, who, for once, displayed perfect table manners while she focussed on her plate.

'She is very like you, Ezra.' Maude's declaration effectively silenced the whole table.

'Thank you.'

Maude looked back at the child who raised familiar green eyes to her own. 'With the exception of the hair of course.' Rorie narrowed her eyes at the dismissive tone. Ezra sensed the little girl's antagonism and hastily intervened.

'She gets that from her mother. You remember Celeste?'

'Indeed I do Ezra.' Maude patted her lips with the napkin and gave a tight smile.

Rorie had had enough of this.

'Have you ever been a Mummy?'

Maude smiled condescendingly. 'Of course I have child, I am your father's mother.'

'Yes I know. But have you ever been a Mummy?'

There was a dumbfounded pause and Maude reluctantly allowed herself a small burst of pride. This one was a Standish all right. Smart little madam. Her intended response was cut off by the sound of a cellphone and every man in the room reached for his pocket.

It was Chris who answered the call.

'Larabee. Good evening Orrin... Nothing that can't... when? Okay. Thirty minutes.' He clicked his phone shut and glanced round the table.

'Sorry to break up the party boys but Travis needs us back in the office. The Inman bust has been moved up to tonight. We need to get moving.' He turned to the Undercover Agent who was gaining his feet. 'Ez, can you get Mrs Greer to come back over?'

Rorie's new nanny, a widow with a daughter of her own, was living in a nearby apartment complex until the planned basement flat was finished. As yet, it wasn't started.

'I will call her immediately, Mr Larabee. Mother, if you would excuse me.' He playfully tugged his daughter's braid as he made to leave the room.

'Dahlin' there's no need to interrupt the unfortunate woman's evening, I'm sure Aurora and I will be able to cope admirably, won't we my dear?' She got a slightly uncertain glance in response.

Ezra turned, 'Really mother, it's no trouble...'

'Nonsense. Go on and do...whatever it is you have to do. I will look after Aurora.'

Ezra looked at Rorie who summoned a smile. 'It's Okay Daddy. I'll see you later.' Rorie looked at her grandmother and thrust out a small challenging chin. Maude raised a brow. Stubborn. Just like Ezra.

The undercover agent was torn. He didn't want to insult his mother but...

'Bye Daddy.'

He stepped forward and kissed the top of the strawberry blonde head. 'If you're sure sweetheart.' He gave his mother a warning glance and propelled a protesting Vin out of the door behind the rest of the team.

'Ez com'on ya can't...' The voice trailed away and the two Standish women regarded each other in the deafening silence.

Team 7 Offices

5am Saturday

The bust had gone relatively smoothly, although JD had been clipped on the arm by a stray bullet and Vin was sporting matching black eyes and a swollen nose. The team had gathered the equipment and returned the extra weapons to the Armoury and were preparing to head home. It had been agreed that the initial reports would be filed by Nathan and Chris, with the rest completing the detailed paperwork on Monday.

'Alright boys head off. We'll meet back at Ez's tonight, in the meantime, everyone get some sleep.' He turned to the anxious undercover Agent and sharpshooter. 'Ez, Vin let me know if you have any trouble when you get home.' He did not clarify his statement and the two nodded and hurried out.

'I wonder how Rorie survived an evening alone with Maude.' JD was carefully packing his surveillance tapes into a draw in his desk, one handed. He slammed the draw shut and locked it.

Chris chuckled humorlessly. 'I wonder how Maude survived an evening alone with Rorie.'

The men filed out, switching off the lights as they left. 'I wonder if the house is still standing....' Josiah's deep rumble died away as they disappeared into the elevator. The office was quiet again.

Standish Home


The house was indeed still standing, shrouded in the quiet of an early dawn.

Ezra and Vin quietly made their way up the stairs, turning in silent agreement towards the child's room as they gained the landing. It wouldn't hurt to check.

Ezra pushed open the door soundlessly, hoping not to wake the little girl. He needn't have bothered. She was sitting cross-legged on the toy-strewn rug dressed in a sweater, a pair of jeans and fluffy bunny feet. She appeared to be struggling to get Ken into one of Barbie's ballgowns. Ken seemed to be putting up quite a fight.

A floorboard creaked and she looked up.

'Daddy! Uncle Vin!' Her voice was a childish whisper, over-exaggerated and, well, loud. She leapt to her feet and picked her way through the debris to give them both big hugs and sloppy kisses.

'Good morning, Dahling.' Ezra cuddled the squirmy little body and breathed in the smell of baby shampoo wafting off the curls tickling the end of his nose.

'Hey there pumpkin pie. Looks like ya had a tornado through here.' The Texan nudged an upturned doll-buggy with his foot.

'Wow, Uncle Vin you look like a racoon!' She reached out and gently kissed the tip of his nose. 'There all better. So how's the other guy look?'

'Rorie' Ezra shook his head at her but could prevent the answer from being given.

'Roadkill!' Vin winked at her.

The small face took on an expression of acute disgust. 'Too much iffa'mation Uncle Vin.'

Ezra frowned at Vin before settling Rorie back down on her feet. 'Dahling? Why are we whispering?'

The impish face lit up with childish glee. She pointed to her bed, hidden in the shadows of a recessed corner.

Peering into the gloom, Vin snorted and went to fetch a camera.

Ezra just gaped. It couldn't be... he blinked. It was. He walked over to get a closer look and stood gazing down at this unfamiliar individual. Rorie giggled and he turned to her as Vin reappeared with a camera and started taking snapshots of the prone figure.

'Alright Miss Standish, who is this person and what have you done with my mother?'


A worried Chris pulled up in front of the house and climbed out of the big black Ram. Grabbing the case of beer from the passenger seat he strode up the walkway and let himself in with his key.


'Hey Chris.' JD emerged from the study, empty coffee cup in his single working hand. 'Keep it down, Vin's sleeping.' Chris followed as he made his way to the kitchen.

'Where's Ez and Rorie?'

'They took Maude to the Airport.' Nathan, Josiah and Buck were sitting at the table playing cards.

'Alone?' Chris unconciously raised his voice. 'You left them alone with her?'

'They were gone when we got here.' Buck handed him a piece of paper. 'It was taped to the door.'

Chris slowly set down the beer. He met Josiah's eyes. 'They haven't... I mean, they're just seeing her off right?' He glanced down at the note.


V. was watching R. this morning and has gone to recuperate. Please do not wake him.

M. requested a ride to the airport and R. and I are going to see her safely on her journey. We should be back around six.

Please make yourselves at home.


'They're due back soon.' Josiah's statement was unnecessary.

'So you don't know what happened?' Chris received responses in the silent negative.

'House is still standing.' Everyone glared at JD.


'They ain't worried about the damn house JD.' Vin appeared barefoot, looking like he'd been dragged through a hedge backwards, and beaten up for good measure.

'Nice pair of shiners Pard.' Buck smiled at the bleary eyes.

'Least I kin breathe thro' m' nose now.'

The distinctive throaty purr of the Jaguar came from outside followed by doors slamming and the sound of voices.

'...but Daddy...'



'I said 'No' Aurora. Do not badger me.'

The two appeared in the back doorway. 'Shoes please, Rorie.'

Rorie sent her father a mutinous look. Ezra calmly stared her down and she dropped her eyes and huffed.

She removed her shoes.

Ezra noticed their audience first. 'Good evening, Gentlemen. Mr Tanner, I trust you are somewhat refreshed?'

'Yep.' Vin grinned and crouched on his haunches holding his arms out to the little girl who padded over and into his hug. 'Ya up fer another round pumpkin?'

Rorie gave a dramatic sigh and tucked her head under his chin. Everyone looked inquiringly at the Southerner who rolled his eyes. 'We had reason to stop at the grocery store and she spotted a notice advertising puppies....' He trailed off and they all nodded in understanding.

Vin hugged the disappointed child. 'Wouldn't be fair, little girl. You start school day after tomorra an' he'd be all by himself. Tell ya what though, did ya know Uncle Chris has got horses?'

The little head shot up, clipping Vin smartly under the chin and causing his teeth to smash together with an audible snap. He winced.

Green eyes gazed at Chris. 'For real ones?'

Chris nodded.

'Wow.' Rorie wriggled out of Vin's arms and trotted over to stand at Chris's knee. 'Hello, Uncle Chris.' The men chuckled.

'If you're really good, maybe you can come up to the Ranch and see them.' Rorie turned to her father.


'Not today, petite. Perhaps next weekend, if it is convenient for Mr Larabee, we will visit and you can meet Chaucer.'

'Who's Chaucer?'

'My horse.'

'You have a horse and you won't let me have a pu...' Rorie broke off at the raised eyebrow from her parent. 'Oops.'

'Oops indeed. No badgering.'


'And there will be no more ambushing of guests while they sleep.'

'Daddy, I didn't 'bush her. We were just playing.' The eyebrow raised again and Rorie huffed. 'Alright, Daddy, I'm sorry. I won't do it again. Can I play games on your Con'tuter Uncle JD? Please?'

JD nodded and she scampered off.

Chris looked incredulous. 'She did it again? To Maude?'

Both Vin and Ezra laughed. 'Yep, an' we got pictures ta prove it.' The Texan looked smug.

'This I have to see.'

Everyone grabbed cold beers from the fridge and settled down at the table. Ezra reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew an envelope. Tipping it up, they watched as a pile of photographs spilled across the table. There was a momentary stunned silence.

'Holy Shit! Is that Maude?' Buck picked up the one closest to him, as the others all reached in to get a closer look.

'What happened to her hair?'

'She looks like CoCo the clown, look at her nose!'

'Why is she wearing boxers on her head?'

'Boxers? Lemme see that. Goddammit they're mine. I ain't never wearin' 'em again!'

They all took a good look at the pictures and then turned to the Southerner.

'Want to tell me what the HELL went on here last night?' Chris was chuckling.

'Vin, why don't you start?' Ezra threw the ball into his court.

Vin laughed. 'Seems ol' Maude decided the newest Standish should be taught the fam'ly tradition.' He paused and lifted up the pack of cards the others had been playing with when Chris arrived.

'POKER?' There was an incredulous chorus.

'Maude was teaching POKER to... to.. she's not even four years old!' Buck shook his head. The fact that Ezra had survived his childhood at all pushed him right up in the ladiesman's opinion.

'She thought she was.' Everyone turned to Ezra.

'Apparently, Celeste considered it necessary to prepare her daughter for life as a Standish and thought of it first. Of Course, being the devious little munchkin that she is, Rorie refrained from telling Maude she could already handle the cards and allowed Mother to show her the rudiments of the game. When Maude suggested they play a hand Rorie wondered if they should not have something to bet with, in order to play 'properly'. She dismissed the idea of money, protesting that Daddy wouldn't approve of her gambling, and announced that she wasn't allowed to play with matches.'

'The little demon then suggested they play for forfeits. Mother agreed, thinking to manipulate the child, when, in reality...'

'She was the one bein' conned.' Vin laughed.

'By the time Maude caught on, three hands later, she'd already had to put her clothes on backwards, had her nose painted red and was wearing Vin's boxers on her head.' By the time he finished, there were tears pouring down the Southerner's face and the others were roaring with laughter.

'Maybe we should have been protecting Maude from Rorie!' JD spluttered out.

'Damn kid should come with a hazard warning.'

'She did. She's a Standish isn't she?' The proud father grinned showing off his dimples and setting them all off again.

'By the time Mother finally got her cleaned up and into bed, she was so exhausted she fell asleep in Rorie's room.'

'What about the hair?'

'Ah well, she made the fatal error of slipping into slumber in Rorie's presence. Apparently, the little monster felt that to complete the effect she needed to colour her hair, which she did, with blue poster paint.'

'Ezra, I hate to ask but what did your mother have to say about all this?' Nathan was trying to take in the future implications of the imp's pranks.

The Undercover Agent smiled. 'She told me, and I quote, 'That is one fine child, Ezra. She is a credit to the Standish name. Make sure those 'Gentlemen' with whom you choose to associate appreciate the fact.' I didn't tell her that each of you already have reason to appreciate just how dangerous she can be!'

'Ain't that the Truth.'

'Amen Brother.'


Denver Academy for the Exceptionally Gifted

Principal's Office

8.45 am Monday

'Excellent, Mr Standish, all the necessary documentation is in order. Did you complete the form concerning next of kin? Thank you.' Charles Sinclair looked down at the form, surprised to find several names in the Authorized Guardians column. He read through the names, 'In addition to Aurora's Nanny, Mrs Greer, you have named Mr Vin Tanner, Mr Christopher Larabee, Mr Nathan Jackson, Mr Josiah Sanchez, Mr Buck Wilmington and Mr John Daniel Dunne as having your permission to act 'in loco parentis' in your absence...' He trailed off, glancing at this unusual parent.

Standish smiled at him and opened his mouth to respond but was cut off.

'They're my Uncles.' The new student's voice was filled with pride.

'Indeed? You are very fortunate.' The jovial man beamed down at the child who grinned back and nodded vigorously causing the beribboned braids to leap about with a life of their own.

'Well then, say good bye to your father and I'll see you to your classroom.' He watched as the expensively dressed man crouched down and hugged the small blonde in the oversized uniform.

'Be good, Petite, I will see you later.' He kissed her forehead and released her.

'Bye Daddy.'

The little girl took hold of the pudgy hand offered by the teacher and trotted off down the corridor at his side.

Swallowing the lump in his throat Ezra watched his daughter leaving him behind. The two stopped at a door halfway down the hallway and Rorie turned back towards him. Even with the distance separating them he could read the mischievious glint in her eye as she screwed up her face and tried to wink at him, both eyes closing with the effort.

Oh Lord.

The door opened and they vanished.

The end...or the beginning?

To Atlantan Legacy IV - Five Days

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Comments: - be nice.