_The Ethical Thing to Do _by Tapu Io and Pania & Airini Ngata/"A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world."--Albert Camus/
**follows after 'Kids and Bears'To outsiders, the face of Tapu Io might have seemed fearsome at the moment. They would see the scowl and then the impressive traditional Maori tattoos and slowly back away before something could happen. In reality, he was a rather easy going sort unless something or somebody annoyed him, as was the case now. He resisted the urge to throw something at his door but it was hard. Talking to that stupid bastard always pissed him off. With a deep cleansing breath, he began to tap in the codes to call his client. Just the thought of that put a smile on his face though he kept that reason to himself. It was unprofessional to be sure.
Mummy's comm was beeping but she was in the shower. The little blonde haired five year old bit her lip and glanced between the comm and the bathroom where her Mummy was washing, then she bounced over and answered it. "Uncle Tapu! Hi! Mummy's in the shower right now, wanna wait?"
"Kia ora, Airini, that would be good," he said with a smile. Sweet little thing. How the hell did she spring from that bastard? "How are you, little one?"
"I'm good. I went to school today and met two new friends, Jack and Lianjie. Jack's half Betazoid and he has very pretty brown eyes. He can't read proper, which is weird coz he's way older than me, he's 8 and that's really old!" The girl grinned at him, she liked Uncle Tapu, he had pretty tattoos and he was nice to her.
"Friends're a good thing t'have, eh? That ancient already at eight? Pah, you'll have to catch him up so he can be good and young like you, Rini," Tapu chuckled.
"I won't catch him up, silly, he's always going to be three years older than me, even when I'm eight. Then he'll be..." She stuck her tongue out and started counting on her fingers. Nine, ten... "Eleven!"
Tapu laughed then, a rich bright laugh, and he was glad he'd called. Child logic was just too funny. "That's pretty good counting. I'm impressed."
"I'm gonna be a genius, Mummy says so," the girl told him."So I do," Pania said as she moved up behind the girl, rubbing her hair with a towel. "I also say not to answer the comm unless I'm in the room, don't I?"
Airini gave her Mum the brightest smile. "You were in the shower so that's sort of in the room."
"But not quite," she snorted. She turned her warm smile on the screen. "Tapu, you've got news?"
"Kia ora, Pania," Tapu said, unable to keep the smile from his face. It was bad form, really bad form, to look that way at a client, but he supposed that if all he were doing was looking. "News depends on the visit I just got. I got an earful."
"Sweetie, why don't you go and find your new rabbit to show Uncle Tapu," Pania said, ruffling her daugther's hair. "I think she's hanging up drying with your cow."
"Okay, Mummy!" the girl skipped off, her pigtails swinging.Then Pania settled down in front of the screen. "Not in front of her. It took me two hours to get her settled last night and even then she woke up crying. So what did the son of a bitch say?"
Tapu blew out a breath, tapping his fingers on his desk. "It seems you not only denied him the right to see his child, you also had him assaulted by two lovers of yours," he said flatly.
Pania actually blinked. "You have got to be kidding me. Lovers? I don't have any lovers. Who did he say they were?"
He knew she'd say that but the part of him that wasn't an attorney was glad she did. "Some little woman and a gorilla Marine," he said with a straight face.
"Wow. Muse isn't a gorilla and he's engaged to the Chief Nurse and Midorikawa's seeing the Counsellor, or she was before he was shipped off," Pania shook her head. She knew all the scuttlebutt, it was a trait leftover from when she was a counsellor herself, so ingrained now that it was second nature. "Besides which, I'm not gay, I'm not even bisexual. That dick is clutching at straws. What does he expect to gain by making this stuff up? Does he want sole custody?"
"And termination of any of your parental rights since you've got an unsuitable temperament and lifestyle to raise a child," Tapu said with a nod. "Was he, in fact, assaulted though?"
She let out a breath, trying very hard to remain calm. "He walked into a wall, but he wasn't damaged." Running a hard over her face, she gave Tapu a pain-filled expression. "He can't take my little girl from me, can he?"
"He can try, Pania, I won't lie t'you," Tapu said plainly. "Thing is, you really do have a more stable environment than he does. Steady decent job, good family connections...though references and a deposition or three wouldn't hurt. I prefer overkill in this case even if he's obviously a stinking bastard who makes things up."
"I'll send you contact details for the Field Marshal and several of her people, I worked with them for a while. Do you want the details of Muse and Midorikawa as well?"
"All of it," Tapu said with a nod. "The ship's CO chiming in wouldn't hurt either. I can talk to your dad here myself."
Pania let out a slow sigh. "I've gotta keep my little girl, Tapu. I'll do anything. That sick bastard doesn't deserve her, he spent two weeks ignoring her and letting his sick girlfriend throw her toys away."
"That's just mean," Tapu said shaking his head. "Te mutunga ke mai o te rori o te tangata, you know? But that reminds me of something very important."
"Yeah I know," she snarled. "What though?""Does he disrespect our people in front of Airini?" Tapu asked carefully. "Does he show due deference to that part of her that's Nga-i Ta-tou?"
"I don't know," she said softly."He calls you savages," the little girl said. She was clutching two still very damp toys as she climbed onto her mother's lap. "He was really mean about Tipuna ta-ne, said he was ignorant. I don't even know what that means."
The corner of Tapu's jaw twitched with restrained rage. "Ignorant means uneducated and too stupid t'realize it, little one. Your Tipuna ta-ne is one of the wisest men I know but your father thinks, because he respects tradition, that he's ignorant."
"Grandpa doesn't think that, he likes Tipuna ta-ne," the girl said. "Why would Daddy say that? Why does he hate me?"
"I can't tell you that, Rini," Tapu said with a glance at Pania. "The most we can do for people like that is feel sorry for them because they're missing out on wonderful things and people." It was the right thing to say. The son of a bitch was her father still.
Pania cuddled her daughter, knowing only Tapu could see the disgust on her face. "He doesn't hate you, sweetie, he just doesn't know how to handle being a Daddy, it makes him scared."
"But you have a good Grandpa and Tipuna ta-ne and that's important, too, Rini. You can learn a lot from the elders," Tapu said kindly even as he shook his head.
"Why can't I have a nice Daddy like Jack does?" the girl asked, frowning at her Uncle.
"I don't know, little one," Tapu said honestly. "Might be like your mum says where yours just isn't good at it. I take your friend's daddy is alright?"
"He's a Marine," she told him. "He's all strong. He shoved Daddy into a wall coz he was mean to me."
"Ah okay," Tapu said with a smirk at Pania. Now, he told himself, I know who it was. "Sounds like he's a good sort then."
"He's nice. He takes care of Jack. I told him that his Daddy is what a Daddy is meant to be," Airini told her Uncle.
"That's right, he's the perfect kind of Daddy," Pania nodded. She kissed her daughter's cheek. "Why don't you go and play with your toys? I'll come through when me and your Uncle are finished."
"'Kay..." The girl dropped to the floor, waved at her Uncle and skipped out.
"Cute," Tapu said, shaking his head at the retreating child. "That one's a treasure, Pania."
"I've done my best to protect her," Pania sighed. "I don't want that son of a bitch anywhere near her ever again. Can we do that? Can we cut him off completely?"
"I'll do my damndest, Pania. Does his father get along with him?" Tapu asked.
"With Frank? No, I think he called him a sick, twisted little man," she snorted.
"HA!" Tapu cackled with glee. "It makes me evil shark-like lawyer heart good to hear stuff like that. Since I know you'd never cut him off, I'm sure he'd cooperate with cutting Frank off. That is seriously jackpot evidence wise."
Pania snorted in response. "Now that's a good thing. Okay, I'll send over his contact details too, though pa-pa- knows them too. Rini's right, he likes the guy, even if he's related to the asshole."
"Smart child to know the differences and not hold them against him," Tapu stated.
"My kid is smart, Tapu, she's the smartest." "I'm definitely not disagreeing, Pania. She's a good girl," Tapu stated."I don't want him near her again," she said firmly. She shuddered. "I can't believe I let him touch me. I can't believe I actually loved him."
"Don't beat yourself up, Pania," he said, biting his tongue to keep from speaking his mind. "We all do things that seem right at the time. That hindsight thing is a real kicker."
"It's killing me," she snorted. She met his eyes, goodness knows she missed seeing traditional men and he was nothing if not totally traditional. He did have kind eyes though, even under all the facial tattoos. "Next time we're near Earth, I'll come home to visit, you can meet her yourself."
"I'd like that actually. This not literally seeing clients is strange to me but it's working," he said easily enough. "Besides, I don't have t'wear a suit."
"Never was fond of a man in a suit anyway," Pania laughed. "I guess I'm just used to the more traditional man."
"Nothing wrong with us savages," he said with a mischievous wink that looked so out of place with his facial tattoos.
"Noting wrong at all," she winked back. "Such a shame you're so very far away."
"Come home," Tapu said, only half joking.The request struck something deep inside her and she actually held her breath for a second. "I can't. There's a little boy here, he's so very damaged deep down. He has a new family but he can't read, can't write, he asks questions like 'what's a father', 'what's a cloud'. Captain Craig asked me personally to come here and teach him. I can't leave now."
Tapu half shrugged but he nodded. "And you're good at what you do. It's important."
"I try." She smirked at him. "Come see us if you're really interested."Tapu shrugged. He wanted to but...ah being professional sure had its issues. "Let me get to work in this crap with that bastard and I'll bring papers out for you to sign in person."
She smiled for him then. "I'd like that. Be good to see you." "Have that much faith in me do you?" Tapu asked."I trust you with my little girl's life and that's more than even my own," she said in total honesty.
"I'll bring a care package from home then," Tapu said carefully."I'd like that. As Airini would say: AWESOME!" She actually laughed this time, shaking her head. "If you can, bring my father with you. Airini misses him."
"That alone might do it though you know how some of us, including me, get: hate to be away from where we come from," Tapu said even though he was already making plans in his head.
"If it bothers you, just think of a traditional girl is waiting to welcome you," she smiled.
Tapu shook his head self consciously. "That so? Too bad I'm still your attorney, eh?"
She blinked. "Oh. Well now, that's... Yes. I meant as a friend, Tapu, but now that you mention it... It's not unheard of, is it? For a lawyer to have something with his client?"
"Not unheard of at all but..." Tapu shrugged elegantly. "Ethics, you know? If I were to open my mouth and say something and that bastard got wind...bad things, Pania, really bad."
"Then wait," she nodded. "Wait until you come see us and we can talk about it in person where no one can hear."
Tapu nodded carefully. "And best hope I don't look out any windows when I do. I hate flying."
"It's not really flying, Tapu, it's more staying still and the starfields flow around you," she told him.
"Tell that to my guts," he said with a smirk. "No worries, Pania. I'll live even if I spend half the trip in a chunder."
"We'll be waiting," she said warmly. "And try and convince the old man, yeah?"
"Yeah, sure thing, Pania," Tapu said, finally smiling easily."Now I know everything's gonna be okay. If you can smile that easy, I know it's all gonna be just fine." She smiled back then winked.
-- "I like to write when I feel spiteful; it's like having a good sneeze"---D.H. Lawrence