Notes: A sequel to ‘He’s a Pirate’, set a few months before the events in 'Practical Applications'. A crossover with Magnificent Seven and a story in the Echos the Sea series. The title from the song by Connie Dover. Many thanks to strangevisitor7 for hand holding and brainstorming.
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.
Additional note: for those new to the series, Ezra is an Immortal in this AU, and both Charlotte and Methos were his teachers.
A Small World
Methos made his way west to Rancho Caballo Rojo. According to Hank Jenkins’ directions, he should almost be there. A fence line had appeared a few minutes before and next should be the entrance to the road leading to the Black place. The gentle murmur of the Rio Grande floated around him, and the sharp light of the autumn sun warmed his face. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and allowed himself to relax, his horse setting the pace.
It would be good to stay in one place for a time; even if it was just for a winter. He’d left ‘Doctor Benjamin Adams’ behind a few years ago, and was still in that place where he didn’t feel quite right in his skin; comfortable in this new persona. ‘Matthew Adamson’ needed to gather some moss to do that, which meant this rolling stone needed to rest.
Absently he wondered if the Widow Black was a pretty woman. Though, if she had a daughter old enough to marry, and had lived the hard life of a settler, a woman alone, she was probably as stark and weathered as the junipers that dotted the landscape around him.
The sound of voices interrupted his idle musings of women and just who ‘Matthew’ might end up being. Not much more time passed ‘til he discovered the source of those voices: two boys clearing brush on the other side of the fence line he’d been following. They most likely were part of the ‘passel of young ones’ Sheriff Jenkins had mentioned. The boys caught sight of Methos as he drew even with them. The older one, who looked to be about sixteen, stepping in front of the younger boy, gave Methos a cautious, but not unfriendly, look.
Methos touched the brim of his hat. “Matthew Adamson,” he introduced himself.
“Timothy Black,” the boy replied. “My brother, Jess.” He jerked his chin towards the younger boy who was peering around his brother’s shoulder.
“Pleased to meet you.” Methos dismounted, walking over to the fence. “Sheriff Jenkins says your mother’s looking for a ranch hand.” The boys snickered and gave each other a look. “Well, that’s not exactly right; what I believe he actually said was your mother needs a ranch hand,” he amended with a grin.
“Mama’s going to be in a right state when she hears that,” Timothy told him with a matching grin.
“So I gathered from the sheriff. But I’m up to the challenge,” he assured them. Methos was fairly certain the two boys would be placing bets on his chances of success with their mother. Matter of fact, so would he.
They climbed over the fence. “We’ll walk you up; it’s only about another mile.” Timothy waved his arm behind him.
“I’m much obliged, gentlemen. Lead the way!”
Methos spent a pleasant half hour with the two brothers as they led him to the house – and his meeting with the inimitable Widow Black. Along the way, he’d learned that there were six children altogether, from Jemma, the oldest, to little Constance, the baby of the family at age two. And that they’d come here to New Mexico from Virginia ten years prior. It was also patently obvious that the boys held an abiding admiration for their mother, and that they were part of a close and loving family.
A long low adobe style ranch house appeared as they turned a bend in the road, and Jess, who it turned out was nearly fourteen, ran ahead to tell his mother they had company. Methos laughed at something Timothy told him, actually finding himself looking forward to what the future might bring, when his mood was shattered by the discordant peal of another Immortal’s presence. Inwardly cursing his foul luck, he slowed, a hand drifting up the side of his horse to where his sword was stowed. Ever so casually, he pulled back his long duster, making sure his revolver was within easy reach.
He heard young Jess’s excited voice ring out, “Mr. Adamson’s come all the way from Wyoming Territory, mama! But he said we could call him Matthew! And he knows all about horses!”
Then she was there, standing on the porch, a shotgun in one hand, her other hand holding Jess back. Her expression was one of set determination as she stepped out into the open. Methos’ eyes met hers and recognition dawned.
“It can not be,” she whispered, taking one step, then another, handing the shotgun to Timothy as he came to stand next to her.
“Mama?” he queried, alert to the change in mood and instantly on guard. As the oldest boy, he was the man of the family, and took his duty very seriously.
“All is well, Timothy,” she reassured him gently, squeezing his arm. “Mr. Adamson and I are acquainted.”
For once, Methos wore no mask. The genuine joy he felt was wreathed plainly across his face. “Your mother and I were good friends once upon a time,” he told the boys who were looking back and forth between the two adults. "We have not seen each other for many years."
For a moment, Charlotte stood perfectly still, as if she were afraid Methos might disappear like some desert mirage. Then she was running across the space between them and into his arms. Spinning her around, they both laughed until they were breathless.
As he set her on her feet, Charlotte reached up, touching his face. “Is it really you, Methos?” she asked in a whisper.
“It is, dearest Charlotte.”
“Then my prayers truly are answered.”
San Luis Obispo, Present Day
“It really is a small world,” Duncan commented with a slightly dreamy expression in his eyes. He always had been a sucker for tales of long lost lovers reunited.
“Isn’t that the truth?” Charlotte was smiling with amused exasperation at Methos, who had begun to hum ‘It’s a Small World After All’.
“Stop!” Duncan demanded.
“What?” Methos asked, all innocence.
Duncan sighed, rolling his eyes. “What,” he muttered.
Methos just chortled before launching into an even louder rendition. But Charlotte’s lips on his brought an abrupt end to his musical serenade.
“Stop!” she repeated Duncan’s admonition, giggling.
“You had only to ask,” Methos replied archly before kissing her back.
Smiling fondly, Duncan gave them a moment, then said, “I have a feeling you two would like to do some catching up.”
“Brilliant deduction, Mac!”
“I see the passing years have done nothing to temper the more aggravating facets of your personality,” Charlotte observed, lips twitching with suppressed laughter though she did her best to sound disapproving.
“If only,” Duncan responded in a similar tone, though he didn’t seem to really mean it either.
“Hey, you don’t mess with perfection!” Methos protested, sweeping out his arms in a grand gesture.
“Please, take him away,” Duncan implored Charlotte. “Then maybe I can get some work done without his constant complaints and nitpicking.”
She laughed. “Fine, I will, but you owe me one, Mr. MacLeod,” she told him with a mischievous gleam in her eye.
“Anything!” Duncan agreed in mock desperation.
“Oh, yes, you two are very funny,” Methos informed them, taking Charlotte’s hand and pulling her to her feet. “You’re just lucky I’m a very mellow and easygoing guy.”
Duncan snorted. “Yeah, aren’t we just?”
Duncan had said he’d walk them out to the parking lot. As they exited the imposing oak doors of the tasting room, he realized it was much later than he’d thought. The late afternoon sun lay across the hills like a golden blanket, and above them, a slender pale crescent of the moon peeked out. In the distance, fingers of fog could be seen creeping up from the coast. Duncan took a moment to soak it all in, letting Methos and Charlotte walk ahead hand in hand. This was his life now and he intended to enjoy it.
As they made their way down the path, Charlotte looked back at Duncan. “There’s something I should tell you.” Both men looked at her in surprise at the unexpectedly serious tone.
“Something wrong?” Methos asked, concerned.
She shook her head as she came to a halt. “No, nothing’s wrong.” She glanced over at Methos briefly before returning her attention to Duncan. “We aren’t the only Immortals in the area. I just thought you should know.”
Methos threw his head back in exasperation. “See? What did I tell you? Immortal wine of the month club,” he muttered.
“What?” Charlotte asked, perplexed.
“Never mind,” Methos grated out.
“Ignore him,” Duncan advised. “I do.” The last was said with a smirk.
A small smile ghosted across Charlotte’s lips. “I’ve always found that to be the best policy,” she admitted.
“If you two are quite finished?” Methos asked pointedly. “I believe you were telling us about the neighbourhood?”
She shot an irritated look at Methos, before explaining, “Ezra Standish. He has a house on my property. I helped raise him as a child; he’s family.”
Methos made an unintelligible noise deep in his throat. “Ezra’s here?”
She nodded sharply, and then fixed her gaze on Duncan. “I would take it personally should there be any misunderstandings.” There was steel lining the soft measured tones of her simple statement.
Duncan wasn’t offended by her warning. After all, she didn’t really know him, and had no idea what his boundaries were. “Don’t worry, Charlotte, I’m not in the habit of challenging other Immortals without cause. Maybe you could introduce us?”
“I can do that,” she said, obviously relieved. “I’ll call you and arrange for a day next week. I can show you around and introduce you to people you’ll need to know.”
“I’d appreciate that.”
Sounding out of sorts, Methos asked, “Maude’s not lurking around as well, is she?”
“Not currently, no,” she replied tightly.
“Maude?” Duncan asked curiously.
"Think Amanda, but with fewer moral qualms, an ace up her sleeve, and a Derringer in her garter," Methos instructed the other man. "Lovely woman." The sarcasm could have been cut with a knife.
“Ezra’s adoptive mother and my former student,” she answered, ignoring Methos.
Methos muttered, “Babes in the woods,” under his breath.
Charlotte glared at Methos, having heard his quiet deprecation. “I was old enough that she’s managed to keep her head for nearly two centuries!” she snapped.
Methos’ laughter rang out. “Considering I probably have shoes older than you, that isn’t saying much, is it?”
Duncan didn’t know Charlotte Sparrow well, but he recognized an impending eruption when he saw one. This was obviously a long standing bone of contention between the two. Not that he didn’t sympathize. When Methos used that supercilious tone, the one that implied you were just a wee bit simple, it was hard to keep your cool. God only knew how many times Duncan had been tempted to pop Methos on the nose since they’d known each other.
Attempting to divert her, he shot Methos a look before saying in a soothing voice, “Taking on a student is a huge responsibility. It’s a credit to you to have accepted that burden so young.”
Some of the fire in her ice-blue eyes dimmed. Crossing her arms across her chest, she said, “I might not have been that old, but there was no one else. She needed me, and I did the best I could.”
Nodding, Duncan squeezed her shoulder. “That’s all any of us can do.”
“Thank you,” she replied softly. “After Ezra’s first death, he needed a teacher as well.” Her eyes flashed a challenge at Methos. “I’d made sure that he’d been tutored in swordsmanship when he was growing up, hoping to give him as much of an edge as possible when the time came.”
“You must care about him very much,” Duncan said.
“I do. He has been the light of my life since he was five years old.” The love in her voice was evident for all to hear.
“He isn’t five anymore,” Methos reminded her acidly.
Duncan saw the look in the other man’s eyes. Was that a flare of jealousy he’d seen before the well practiced mask fell once more? Curiouser and curiouser.
Charlotte seemed to have decided to pay no attention to Methos. “Thank you for your hospitality this afternoon. I enjoyed lunch and getting to know my new neighbour.” The smile she gave Duncan was brilliant in its warmth, lighting up her face, and he thought that Methos was a very lucky man indeed. Whether the oldest Immortal appreciated that or not remained to be seen.
"Thank you for being so generous with your time and letting me pick your brain," Duncan responded. "I really appreciate it."
"Anytime." Then she turned her attention to Methos, the warm expression of moments before now frosty. “Are you coming home with me, or staying here?”
“What do you think?” was the curt reply.
Sniffing, she tossed her shoulder length black hair back. “I was under the impression that I didn’t think at all, so I am sure I don’t know.”
“Charlotte—” Methos began.
She interrupted whatever he was going to say. “I’ll see you next week, Duncan.” With that, she spun on her heel, striding purposefully towards her truck.
“Later, Mac,” Methos muttered as he set off after her.
“Later,” Duncan replied, wondering as he walked back to the winery, just which of the two was going to win the forthcoming battle.