Notes: A crossover with Magnificent Seven and a story in the Echos the Sea/Aces Immortal series. Thanks to strangevisitor7 and ninjababe for the beta.
Characters: Methos, Duncan MacLeod, Ezra Standish, Original Characters.
Summary: It’s been a century and a half since Methos last saw Charlotte and Ezra. His reappearance in their lives brings back many memories; not all of them happy ones.
Against Your Better Judgment
Charlotte pushed herself out of Methos’ lap, standing over him, hands on hips, her eyes snapping like dry lightening during a summer storm. “If you’re so concerned about propriety, Mr. Adamson, I suggest you spend more time doing the job I pay you for, and less time socializing!” With that, she whirled, storming from the room and slamming the door behind her.
“What did I say?” he asked himself, going over the conversation, trying to figure out where things had gone south. “Oh.” You idiot. Okay, perhaps not his most polished proposal ever. Sighing, he rubbed his eyes, knowing there was going to be some groveling to come if he was going to smooth things over with Charlotte.
He needed to make her believe that his desire for a more permanent arrangement between them was not just an attempt to quash local gossip. And it wasn’t; he’d known from the moment he’d decided to stay that this was inevitable. Methos liked it here: the children, the ranch, even being Ezra’s teacher – though he’d never admit that to Charlotte. And he’d come to appreciate the friendships he’d formed since his arrival three months prior with the men who had become family to Charlotte. Vin, the quiet tracker with a price on his head, who had chosen friendship over running, Buck, the ladies man with a zest for life that never ceased to make Methos smile, and Nathan, the healer who wanted to be a doctor. Methos had done his best to pass on what medical knowledge he could to the ex-slave. He felt needed here, and he hadn’t felt that way for a very long time.
And then there was Larabee, the taciturn gunman, grappling with a dark past he couldn’t quite overcome. Methos could empathize with him, and when he was being honest with himself, knew that a part of him saw the man as a threat to his relationship with Charlotte. Despite her protests that she and Chris were only friends, Methos wasn’t blind; though perhaps she was. He knew full well that if he hadn’t arrived on the scene when he had, Chris and Charlotte would have eventually found their way into each others’ arms. It would have been as inevitable as the sun rising in the east. He knew her so well, and a man like Chris Larabee would have drawn her ever closer until she’d have been unable to deny the attraction between them. But he was here now, and Methos had no intention of stepping aside for another mortal; he’d done so for Jack, but not this time.
Methos found Charlotte, and he winced a little at the tightly contained fury in each stroke of the axe she was wielding against the defenseless wood she was chopping. Though he couldn’t see her face, he had an excellent imagination. He debated coming back after she’d cooled down a bit. Coward!
He knew she knew he was there; one of the disadvantages of being Immortal a great deal of the time. You were constantly in one another’s space. But not wanting to push his luck, he sat on a nearby stump and waited for her to lose steam. It took longer than he’d expected, but finally, she put the axe down, keeping her back to him.
“Don’t you have anything to do?” she asked pointedly.
Rising, he walked over to stand behind her, not touching her. “Yes, I do; apologizing for being a complete and utter cad.”
“Please, don’t let me stop you.”
He choked back a laugh. “I am truly sorry, Charlotte.”
Finally turning to him, she searched his eyes. “I’m not sure I believe you.”
Placing his palms again the sides of her face, he asked, “Do you believe I love you?”
She looked like she wanted to say ‘no’, but what she said was, “Yes.”
“Then believe that I want to marry you, Charlotte, for all the reasons a man wants to marry the woman he loves. I was a fool earlier, treating an offer of marriage so cavalierly.”
Her expression softening, she reached up and stroked his arm. “You’d think with all your practice, you’d be much better at it.”
“You’d think, wouldn’t you?” he replied lightly.
She was unable to stop the smile that appeared on her lips. “You are, sir, quite hopeless.”
“But with practice, I could become much more proficient,” he whispered as he lowered his head.
“It is a possibility,” she allowed, her voice catching as his lips hovered over hers.
“Oh, a distinct possibility,” he agreed before taking her lips with his.
San Luis Obispo, California ~ Present Day
“I’m sorry, Charlotte.”
“For making promises I couldn’t keep. I convinced you to marry me, against your better judgment, and what did you get for that trust?”
“Shhhh.” She pressed a finger against his lips. “The past is done with, Methos. We both made choices, and we both have to live with them – but that doesn’t mean we have to dwell on them.”
He sighed inwardly. She seemed determined to avoid discussing the aftermath of their ill-fated betrothal. “What happened after I left?”
“You know what happened.” She wasn’t looking at him now.
“Do I?” came his simple question. One she paled at, though he pretended not to notice, waiting for her to be ready to confide in him on her own time. Though he was beginning to believe that day might never come.
She twisted at the edge of the shawl across her shoulders nervously. “Chris found out who had murdered his family; a woman he’d been involved with once upon a time. The knowledge devastated him. He was lost…and so was I,” she whispered the last. “It wasn’t something either of us had planned on. We just needed something, someone, to hold onto, to bring us out of the dark.” She laughed hollowly. “But I resisted, I didn’t want a commitment and the grief that I knew it would bring, but Chris and his damned sense of honour… An affair wasn’t enough for him, he wanted more, he wanted a life together. He saw a future for us that I was too afraid to see; but he made me believe. And I hated him for it, standing at his grave, years far sooner than should have been. I loved him so much, Methos, and it nearly destroyed me.”
He didn’t say anything, just pulled her into his arms, holding her tight against his chest. It was a start, a small one, but it was something.