Author's Note: Hail, the second story in the "Thread" verse. It even has a name, now. Ooh.

Disclaimer: I don't own Power Rangers Ninja Storm. Sad, I know. But I must work past my grief.


Needle

Tori's father had never been much of a father.

When she was six, her father took her by the hand, put her in his car, and took her to Madam Marie's School of Dance, to learn ballet. And Tori tried, tried so hard, to learn ballet to please her father.

When she was seven, she was trying to imitate some of the older girls by doing one of their jumps. For once, Tori had found something in ballet to love. She loved the power of jumping high in the air, her long blonde hair flying behind her as she envisioned herself as a female superhero, like Wonderwoman.

The older girls didn't like Tori imitating them. They thought she was being presumptuous, and so before Tori could explain she was pretending to be a superhero, they had taken scissors to her beautiful blond hair.

When her mother saw Tori's chopped locks and the tearstained visage of her little girl, she demanded to know what happened. Well versed in bullying etiquette, Tori lied and said she did it herself. She got gum in her hair.

When she was eight, Tori was at the beach with her father and mother. While there, Tori saw two girls on boards, riding the waves and mastering the sea. Tori was instantly enchanted. When the mistresses of the ocean came back on land, the little girl ran up to them, asking questions. Unlike the mean girls of the ballet studio, the girls laughed and offered to let her try.

When she was eight, Tori learned how to fly.

When Tori was nine, she told her father she didn't want to take ballet anymore, and she wanted to surf. Tori's mother had never forgotten the day her daughter came home with chopped hair and tears running down her face, and so her mother pressed the case with her dad. Grudgingly, he let Tori take surfing lessons, but from that point he was never in her life much. It was her mother who bought her first board, her mother who went to her parent-teacher conferences, and it was her mother who approved the ninja school for her little girl.

Tori met Watanbe-sensei when she was fourteen. She'd grown past her father's betrayal, but she had difficultly accepting a male figure of authority. Cam and Tori often fought in the beginning, since Cam didn't understand how you couldn't accept a male figure of authority. But unlike her, Cam couldn't accept a female figure of authority, since he didn't have a mom.

When Tori was fifteen, she failed a class for the first time in her life. Watanabe-sensei found her outside, stifling her tears ("Don't cry, Tori. Crying is weakness. And my daughter isn't weak!). He explained that bo training wasn't her forte, and that was okay. Did she want to learn the swords instead? There was a special kind of katana that was for girls only.

From that point on, Watanabe-sensei became her father figure. When Tori won an under-sixteen competition for girl surfers, Sensei was the first to know. When Tori slipped up and hit a fellow student when he mocked her for her less-than-adequate bo skills, Sensei punished the both of them equally.

In many ways, Sensei took the position of the father that her own dad had abandoned when she was nine. Sensei never met Mr. Hanson, and Tori didn't want him to. If there was anything she could dislike about Sensei, it was his proclivity to see too much and sympathize even more. She didn't want his pity.

So imagine Tori's surprise when she came home one day and saw Sensei having tea with her father. Her father, who loathed anything that could possibly be linked to girliness and thus weakness. That same man having tea with her ninja teacher.

It boggled her mind.

Cray Hanson didn't even look sullen. With a slight smile, he waved his daughter over to join them. Tori walked up the steps to the porch slowly, glaring at her teacher. He smiled enigmatically.

"Mr. Watanabe has been telling me how great you're doing in school," Cray told her enthusiastically. One of Tori's eyebrows went up. Her mother had never told her father where Tori went after regular school each day. "He says you have a real aptitude."

"Thanks, Dad," Tori replied cautiously, the word 'dad' tasting like ash in her mouth.

Ignoring her less-then-enthusiastic reply, Cray continued, "I didn't know your high school offered Tai Chi as an elective. It's really graceful—why didn't you tell me you had taken the course?"

Sensei's mouth quirked in a sly smile. Tori returned it. Tai Chi was close enough to dancing that her father would like it. "It reminds me of water and flexibility. That's why I took it."

Cray beamed.


A year after that, Tori became a Ranger. By then, her father and mother had divorced, so only Tina was aware of the schedule changes and demands of being a Ranger, but she attributed it to further study at the school, and so didn't ask Tori about the further demands of her time.

There was such an empowering feeling of being a Ranger. The smooth flow of power, the knowledge that you're always going to win because, frankly, you're the good guys.

She didn't end up expecting that evil could wear a face she liked. Blake…was such a disappointment. One morning, after they'd gotten Sensei back and Blake and Hunter un-evil, she woke up in Ninja Ops before Cam, for once. Sensei was awake—she had a feeling that he slept during the day when they weren't there—but he was doing katas. It was almost funny, to watch a guinea pig doing ninja katas, but she stifled her amusement to bring Sense his morning tea.

"Ah, good morning Tori," Sensei greeted quietly. Like her, he was moving quietly. Apparently, he didn't want to wake Cam either.

"Good morning Sensei. Um, can I talk to you about something?"

Sensei sighed. "Is this about the new Thunder Rangers?"

"Well, yes. Actually, about one in particular."

"Blake?"

"Yeah."

Sensei paused to sit down. Tori did the same, looking up at the guinea pig intently. "Blake never actually harmed you, did he?"

"No, but he hurt me emotionally," Tori replied softly. "I trusted him…and he hurt me."

Sensei was quiet, before remarking, "Like your father."

"Yeah. Like Dad."

They sat for a while, enjoying the quiet. Tori fidgeted, pulling at the strap of her bathing seat.

"My best advice, Tori, is to let him redeem himself, but do not be so anxious to vilify him. Allow him to earn your trust again. I know he can do it."

"Thanks, Sensei," she murmured, standing up.

Sensei smiled up at her. "You are your own best counselor, Tori. I can only guide you, now."

As she left, she thought, You've always done more than that. Thanks, Sensei.


Author's Note (2): Another thing I rather hoped to accomplish with this fic, besides the whole Sensei-became-Tori's-father-issue, is that her biggest fear is getting her hair cut. When I saw the Eyesac episode, I ended up having a WTF moment. It appears that Disney (at least, I think mostly Disney) wants to have strong female characters, but they force themselves to show the present feminity of their characters, so that at least one part of the characters are traditionally feminine (can we talk Kira going all preppy in DT that one episode?). That annoys the hell out of me, and since Disney enjoys dark backstory (at least, for their male characters) I thought that it would explain a lot if Tori had a horrible childhood memory attached to getting her hair cut.