Author: Mariel1 PM
Pace is exactly one year old, and he has yet to say his first word. The Family is worried, and justifiably so. Will he ever learn to speak? Part 13 of the Lucky Seven series.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Chapters: 3 - Words: 10,281 - Reviews: 17 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 02-04-06 - Published: 01-10-06 - Status: Complete - id: 2745934
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: This really isn't one of my better chapters, in my opinion, but I still had fun writing it. It's a shortie, but it ties up a loose end or two. Hope you enjoy it.
"Chapter 3: A Change of Heart"
Pace awoke early the next morning and padded over to his window to tug on the shade, making it flip up and roll with a flapping sound. He stood on tip-toe to gaze out and to assess the weather, and found it to be a cloudless morning. As he watched, Bedtime Bear brought his car in for a landing; the Cloudmobile dissipated into nothing, and the blue bear practically staggered down the road towards Care-a-Lot. Pace smiled to himself as he watched him go. Danger always seemed more likely to happen at night, when people were in their beds and unaware...At least, that was how it seemed to him. Now, as he looked out his window and saw nothing more sinister than an exhausted Care Bear heading home for bed, Pace felt rather silly at having been so scared the night before. While the rest of the Family slept, Bedtime Bear was out and about.
Regal Heart walked in, yawning and rubbing her eyes. "G'morn'n..." she mumbled. She was wearing a yellow nightshirt, and on the front of it in big black letters it said, 'No coffee, no workee'. Since she wasn't a morning person, that suited her perfectly. She saw that the shade was rolled up and slightly crooked, and sighed. "Pace, you know you're not supposed to do that."
Pace lost his smile and looked down sadly, and Regal couldn't find it in herself to scold him further.
"C'mon, let's go make breakfast. Wanna help?" she asked.
Pace nodded eagerly; he was hungry. The two of them headed downstairs, and the smell of brewing coffee told them that Stellar was already up...or so they thought. Upon entering the kitchen, Regal Heart snickered. Stellar was sitting at the kitchen table with his head down on one arm, and clasped loosely in his other paw was the handle of a half-empty coffee mug. What Regal had at first taken to be the sound of the coffee percolator was actually his snoring.
"Stellar, wake up. Your coffee's getting cold." she told him.
"After the game..." he mumbled.
Regal tittered and gave him a gentle shake. "What game?"
He forced one eye open, and frowned in confusion. "Huh? What're you talking about?"
She rolled her eyes, and lifted his chin in her paw. "Nothin', hon. You were dreaming. How do you feel about pancakes?"
The tiger yawned wider than she would have thought possible, showing the slightly pointed canines that were usually hidden, and nodded. "Sounds good to me. Are the others up yet?"
Regal shook her head, and took a carton of eggs from the refrigerator. Pace walked under her arm without having to duck, and grabbed a bag of miniature chocolate chips. "What're those for, Pacie?"
Stellar craned his neck to look, then raised his coffee mug to his lips. "Chocolate chip pancakes." he said, before draining the rest of his coffee in three swallows.
While his mother was getting breakfast started, Pace went up to Chance's room and poked him lightly on the shoulder. Chance suddenly grabbed him by the arms and pulled him into a headlock. "Gotcha!" he growled, giving Pace a noogie. Pace squirmed indignantly, pinching his brother's forearm. Chance let him go with a slight hiss, and shook his paw to rid himself of the slight sting. "Okay, I deserved that," he laughed, "Time to get up, huh?"
Pace nodded, his expression comically stern as he pointed to the door, and Chance got out of bed with a jovial laugh. "You win, pally. Let's go wake up the girls."
It didn't take long to get Hope out of bed, but as usual Connie decided to be difficult. Pace knocked several times, and each time he got the same reply; "What?" The cub opened his mouth as if to answer, but his throat seemed to close. He looked appealingly up at Chance, who winked conspiratorially as he cleared his throat. Lowering his voice, Chance imitated their father almost perfectly. "Contrary Heart Liger, if you don't get out of bed this minute, I'm coming in there to pour cold water on you!" Pace giggled, and Chance bit into his paw to stifle a laugh as he heard Connie scrambling out of bed and muttering angrily to herself.
Yanking open the door, Connie growled, "Listen Dad, I have a good mind to...Chance! I'm gonna kick your stripy little butt!"
"Whoo-hoo!" Chance crowed, giving Pace a 'high four'. "We got her! I'm still the king!"
"Well, go someplace else before I crown you..." she muttered, edging past him and ruffling Pace's mane on her way. Pace smoothed down his mane again, then his nostrils twitched as he caught the faint scent of chocolate. Breakfast! He followed Connie down, ignoring Chance's gloating and Hope's sigh.
Later that morning he watched wistfully as his brother and sisters headed out to report to the Hall of Hearts, and his heart sank when he saw his father getting ready to leave as well. He knew the people of Earth needed them, but the days seemed longer when he had to stay behind. He watched his parents exchange a goodbye kiss, and he accepted his father's hug. Then he prepared himself for another day of boredom.
One thing that bothered him was that he wasn't going to school. Regal and Stellar had spoken to Bright Heart, but the raccoon still seemed to be on the fence about it. In many ways, Pace seemed to be very intelligent for his age. On the other hand he hadn't spoken yet, and he seemed too withdrawn at times. The fact of the matter was that Bright Heart simply didn't know how to approach the matter. There were people on Earth who were trained to teach children who couldn't speak, but it was unclear why Pace wouldn't talk. Bright Heart was convinced that Pace could talk if he really wanted to, but until he did there was nothing Bright Heart could do. This hadn't made Regal or Stellar happy at all, but Bright Heart still advised them to wait. He believed it was a matter of the psyche, and until more was learned he didn't feel comfortable forcing lessons on the cub.
Not that he would have had to force Pace to sit through one of his classes. No school meant no reading. Pace wanted to read on his own, and he didn't want to always have to rely on his parents to read to him. It made him feel...well, childish. Not one to accept 'no' for an answer where one of her children was concerned, Regal took matters into her own paws and began giving him reading lessons. She had taught people how to read before, so she was confident she would be able to teach her son as well.
"Ready for your reading lesson?" she asked as he sat listlessly by the window. He perked up immediately and nodded, and the lesson began.
Beastly peeked cautiously in, hoping he wasn't in too much trouble. He tried to duck back out before No Heart could spot him, but someone shoved him roughly from behind. "Quit it, Shrieky!" he whined.
The teenager curled her lip at the mess, and shoved him again. "My uncle called you, furball. What exactly did you bring him?"
"It looked like the right one...maybe I need glasses..." Beastly mused, rubbing his chin and watching No Heart keenly for the tell-tale 'warning signs' of an impending tantrum.
Shrieky gaped at the ever-expanding sea of pink bubbles, and shook her head in wonderment. "I haven't seen anything like it since the time we terrorized the guests at a Howard Johnson's hotel...Remember that? You poured a bottle of 'Mr. Bubble' into the Jacuzzi..."
"How could I forget!" moaned Beastly, "The cops came and you tried turning them all into toads, but your spell hit me instead..."
"And I had to rescue the two of you, though why I bothered is beyond me!" yelled No Heart, "You, Beastly, are an absolute disgrace!" He turned to Shrieky, who was smirking at the little creature in a superior manner, and said, "And you...I have yet to see one of your spells succeed on a human! How? How can a niece of mine be such a failure?"
Shrieky paled, then flushed red. 'Consider the source, you arrogant son of a jackal...' she thought, showing her teeth in a brief sneer as she turned her back and left the room. She knew better than to say those things out loud.
"I...I'll clean this up." Beastly offered weakly, but No Heart waved him away.
"Just get out of my sight, you little rodent..."
Beastly didn't have to be told twice. He made himself scarce, idly stomping on any bug he happened to encounter in the corridors, and wondered when his punishment would come. No Heart was busy with some spell or other, and until he either completed it or failed, it was unlikely that he would pay attention to anything else. As soon as he was finished, however, he was sure to track Beastly down and punish him. As he tried to think of a way to avoid this, Beastly remembered the tiny cub that No Heart had kidnapped a year ago. He no longer worried that No Heart would try to kill the cub, since he had attempted a spell instead the last time. So, it was without a second thought that Beastly set out to recapture him. Perhaps No Heart would go easy on him then...
"Hey, Pacie. I can't stay long, I forgot my purse." she said.
Pace nodded, trying not to look disappointed, and popped the last piece of his sandwich into his mouth. He walked out into the yard to play under one of the trees, and sighed. He gave a start of surprise as something small and hard bounced off his head, and he bent down to inspect the object. It was an acorn. He picked it up, turning it over in his paw. Looking up into the branches, Pace saw a little grey squirrel watching him with great curiosity. The squirrel cocked its head, and Pace imitated the gesture. An idea came to him, and he held the acorn above his head and near the tree trunk. 'Here.' he thought.
Without hesitating, the squirrel scaled the tree upside-down and took the acorn without damaging the cub's paw. Then, as if it was the most natural thing in the world to do, it hopped onto Pace's head and began happily gnawing at the acorn. Pace turned and sat with his back against the tree, moving slowly so as not to disturb the squirrel. It wasn't hurting him, so he saw no reason to dislodge it.
A moment later, however, the squirrel froze and quickly zipped up the trunk again.
"Hm?" Pace flicked an ear. He thought he heard the sound of a helicopter, but those had never come up this high before. The noise stopped, and Pace reached up to the squirrel again, trying to coax it back down. The squirrel was having none of it, and it twitched its tail as it began to scold; 'Chukchukchukchukchuk, chawww, chawww, chukchukchuk...'
'No, it's okay,' Pace thought, looking sad, 'it's me...You know me...'
But it soon became apparent that the squirrel wasn't scolding Pace. The cub heard someone say 'psssst' from the bushes that surrounded the yard, and he shielded his eyes to peer into the shadows. Much to his surprise, he saw a pair of yellow eyes peering back at him! He cocked his head inquisitively, and stayed right where he was.
"Come here." Beastly whispered.
Pace frowned, and shook his head. He didn't know who this was, but he knew better than that.
"Come on..." Beastly pleaded, "I have some jellybeans for you. See?" he held up a paper bag and shook it to prove that it wasn't empty.
Pace shook his head again, and folded his arms. He didn't even like jellybeans, but that was beside the point. He didn't know who this...person...was, and there was no way he would go to him without his parents' consent. Hadn't he learned early on that strangers were bad news?
"I don't have time for this!" Beastly griped, emerging from the bushes and beckoning. "No Heart'll punish me if you don't come..."
Pace went wide-eyed at that name; apparently he recognized it. He shook his head and pressed his tongue to the roof of his mouth to form the word no, but he remained silent as ever.
Neither of them noticed as the squirrel bounded down from the tree and ran towards the kitchen window. It was open, but the screens were in, and Hope gave a surprised shriek when she saw a squirrel clinging to the screen and staring in at her. "Shoo...go away." she moved to scare it, not wanting it to damage the screen and enter the house, but then she saw something that made her blood run cold. Beastly was slowly approaching her brother, making 'come here' motions and speaking quietly so as not to be heard. "Mom!"
"How dare you come near my son?" she demanded in a low rasp that Pace had never heard.
"Hey, we've all got a living to make." Beastly held up his hands and took a step backwards. "You help the humans, and I try to stop ya. Just what are you doing up here anyway? Too useless to do your job?"
"Excuse me?" Regal glared. Pace glared too. Where did this creature get off, talking to his mother like that?
"Sure, everyone else is down on Earth doing their job, and you just sit up here doing nothing. At least I do what I'm supposed to do, not sitting on my tail all day!" Beastly retorted. "Or maybe you're too stupid to help the humans!"
That was the last straw. Pace yanked his paw out of his sister's and stepped into view once more, his cheeks flaming scarlet beneath the fur. It was one thing for people to talk about him, but it was another for some total stranger to put his mother down like that. He knew she stayed at home more than the others to take care of her cubs, so that they could be good Care Bear Cousins and do their job. What did this thing know about her? Nothing! He opened his mouth, and this time there was no difficulty whatsoever. The words poured from his mouth as easily as if he had been talking all his life. "My dad says, 'If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all'..."
Regal gasped, her anger forgotten. Hope went wide-eyed and wondered if she had really heard it, or if she had just imagined it. When Pace spoke again, however, it was obvious that it wasn't her imagination.
"But my dad's not here, and you're a weenie!" Pace finished triumphantly, pointing an accusing finger at Beastly.
"You little brat..." Beastly grumbled, drawing Regal's attention once more.
"Dodge." said Regal, smiling sweetly.
"Dodge what?" Beastly blinked in confusion. He regretted asking her when her smile tightened into a sneer. That was never a good sign.
"Dodge this!" she barked, knocking him backwards with a Call. That was all the incentive he needed, and he beat it out of there. Regal didn't pursue him. She turned to Pace, and caught him up in a tight embrace. "Why, Pace? If you could talk, why didn't you say anything before? When did you learn?"
Pace shrugged his shoulders; he was surprised himself. He had never been so angry before, and when he opened his mouth and didn't think about it, the words just came on their own. He remembered how he had practiced the different sounds when he was alone in his room, remembered that he had done this for hours and hours, and how he had known that he could speak if he really wanted to. He would explain it to her, his reasons for staying silent, when he was older and understood it better himself. He opened his mouth, unsure if he would be able to do it again, but he felt a swell of pride as he said haltingly, "Prac-tice..."
"Ooh!" Regal hugged him again, causing him to go a bit cross-eyed, "Wait until I tell your father! And the others! I'll arrange a dinner party at the Hall of Hearts."
Hope smirked, and said, "I expect 'humble pie' will be on the menu..."