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.
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.
This Is Our Time
“Charlotte!” Methos caught up to her as she reached her truck. Disregarding him completely, she pulled keys from her purse. Taking her shoulder, he pulled her around to face him. “Don’t do this!”
“You know what!”
“What the hell do you want from me, Methos?” she demanded.
He arched one eyebrow. “I would have thought that was obvious.”
She practically hissed, and would have hit him if he hadn’t anticipated her, grabbing her wrists and pushing her back against the side of the truck.
“You don’t get to do this, Methos! Not anymore. You were the one who left!”
“Do what? Act like a jealous lover?” He pressed his body against hers, his free hand skimming up her thigh to rest on her hip. He inhaled her scent. She still smelled the same: cinnamon, roses, with a touch of lemon.
“You forgot to add ‘former’ to that,” she shot back, slightly breathless.
He shook his head, releasing her wrists. “No, I didn’t,” he whispered into her ear. Lips nuzzled the spot just behind her ear and he smiled as she shivered under his touch.
“Shhhh,” came the soft command as his fingers slipped up into her hair, holding her face where he could see it. “I want to look into your eyes when I kiss you.”
She didn’t dispute his intention, her hands skimming across his chest, coming to rest on his shoulders, pulling him closer. He kept his eyes locked on hers as his lips settled over hers, softly at first, tasting her again for the first time in so long. So close, her eyes were like looking down into the blue depths of a glacier. But it was warmth that those eyes radiated, not cold; Charlotte’s eyes were never cold. Even when she’d been furious with him, Methos had always been able to depend on what he’d see in her gaze when she looked at him.
Sighing against his lips, she pressed into him, their bodies remembering what it had been like when they’d been together. Her hands slipped up to tangle in his short hair, pulling him closer. They kissed until neither of them could breathe, as they had so many years before….
Doña Ana, New Mexico Territory ~ Autumn, 1866
Charlotte had sent the two boys off to stable Methos’ horse, before leading him into the tiled foyer of her home. White plaster walls rose up to meet a beamed ceiling of dark wood, with wrought iron candle sconces set at intervals around the room and down the halls leading away from the entry. The sweet smell of something baking, mixed with the scent of fresh bread and wood smoke drifted around them, teasing the senses.
Methos looked around the Spanish style room, recognizing some of the pieces of art that adorned the walls from Charlotte’s former home in South Carolina. The heavy ironbound oak door closed with a soft thunk behind him, and at the sound, he turned back to look at the woman he hadn’t seen in more than fifty years. The last time he’d seen Charlotte, she’d been dressed in mourning, grieving for her husband of forty-eight years. He’d let her walk away into the twilight then, knowing that the young Immortal needed to stand on her own two feet, no matter how much it had hurt to let her go. But now he’d found her again, and in the most unlikely place he could have imagined.
“Pearl Black,” he said with a soft chuckle. “If I’d been thinking, I would have realized.”
She gave him in impish smile, her eyes incredibly blue, the colour accentuated by the finely dyed dress she wore. It was as if someone had matched the cloth to her eyes. “Jack would have been amused. When I decided to revert to my maiden name, Pearl just seemed too perfect not to use.”
“And the children took the name as well?”
“It was prudent at the time we left Virginia to take on new identities,” was all she said by way of agreement.
Methos decided to wait until later to press her for details. “I never expected to find you living so far from the ocean,” he said instead.
“It was a stop on our way to California. There was just something about this place that made me want to stay, to settle down. It has a special magic, I think.” She reached out, taking his hand in hers. “I can’t believe it’s really you,” she said softly, looking up into his eyes.
He stroked her cheek with his free hand, pulling her closer with the other. “It really is. And this time, you won’t be rid of me so easily,” he told her, his voice warm and full of promise. As she nodded, he leaned down, taking her lips in his, doing something he’d wanted to do for so very long.
In all the years they’d known each other, they’d never been intimate, neither willing to betray the man that was her husband and his best friend. He’d always imagined what she would feel like, her skin against his, what she would taste like when their lips met. It was finally their time, a century and several lifetimes away from the pirate ship in the Caribbean where he’d first set eyes on her.
Her hands slipped up his shoulders, tentatively at first, before coming to rest behind his neck, her fingers tightening as he deepened the kiss. He could feel the steady beat of her heart against his chest, the warmth of her body as she melted into him. It was just as he’d imagined so many times, on so many nights. Except this time, it was real.
A voice from behind them broke the moment. “Yǎng mǔ?”
Charlotte pulled away, blushing a little at the interruption. Methos turned to see an elderly Asian man standing behind them, leaning on a cane with one hand, a revolver in the other.
“Charles, all is well,” she said reassuringly, swiftly going to his side and gently taking the gun from his shaking hand. “He’s an old friend.”
The man nodded. “I was concerned.” He cast a suspicious glance at Methos
“I’m sorry.” Her voice was full of self-reproach. “I should have let you know right away.” She leaned her cheek against his. “Forgive me?”
“It’s all right. You know I worry.”
“I know you do.” She looked over at Methos. “Matthew, this is Charles Lee. Charles, this is Matthew Adamson.” The two men nodded at each other. Then she looked back to Charles, placing her palm against his chest, a concerned look on her face. “Have you taken your tonic today?”
Suddenly, the elderly man looked more like a small child being scolded by his mother. “Yǎng mǔ—” he began plaintively, only to be interrupted by Charlotte.
“Don’t even start!” she ordered sternly. “You know what Nathan said, you need to take it every day for your heart.”
His face twisted into a grimace of revulsion. “It tastes wretched.”
“Then I suggest you chase it with some of that single malt whisky Ezra snuck to you last week.”
Methos almost laughed out loud at the guilty expression that flashed across the man’s face. Even without him calling Charlotte ‘adopted mother’, it would have been obvious to Methos that he had known Charlotte since he was a child. Their interaction left no doubt to that. Yet another story he would need to get her to tell.
“You didn’t think I knew about that, did you?” she asked with a grin before kissing him on the cheek. “*Chǒng ér, my dear love, I raised both of you, remember? You two would have to get up very early in the morning to put something past me.”
The man sighed, a smile tugging his lips. “I’ll take the tonic.”
“And then take a nap,” she directed. “I mean it!”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said, giving into the inevitable. “Oh, and Constance is napping with Rufus under the kitchen table,” he added. “I will see you at supper.” He turned around, leaning on his cane, and then headed down a hallway to his left, disappearing from sight.
“Rufus? Which child is that?” Methos ran through the names the boys had mentioned on their walk to the house.
“The four legged one,” Charlotte informed him with a laugh. “Rufus was a puppy I got about the same time I adopted Constance. She seems to think she’s a dog herself most days, insisting on sleeping with him in his favourite places. They’re inseparable.”
Taking his hand, she led him down the hall towards the back of the house, soon coming to a large kitchen. The wide rectangular room was dominated at one end of a huge fireplace, and at the other by a cast iron stove. From the ceiling beams hung strings of peppers of all kinds, along with bunches of herbs and garlic. A long wooden plank table sat in the middle of the room, surrounded by a variety of chairs and benches. Charlotte pointed underneath the table, and Methos looking, saw a small blonde-haired girl sound asleep curled on a blanket, her arms around a large sleeping dog of some indeterminate breed. He chuckled at the sight, shaking his head at the odd assortment Charlotte had collected.
Methos sat his hat on the table, sinking down into one of the chairs. He gratefully accepted a warm wet cloth from Charlotte, glad to be able to finally wipe off some the dust from the trail. Sitting down in the chair next to him, she handed him a cup of coffee. He took a sip, closing his eyes in pleasure as the hot liquid slid down his throat. “A little sugar, a bit of cream; just the way I like it.”
She put her hand over his on the table, squeezing it gently. “Jemma should be back with the rest of the children soon. They took the wagon to town for supplies. Jemma volunteered so she could visit her beau,” she said, her voice tinged with amusement. "Young love."
“Sheriff Jenkins mentioned she was engaged to his son.”
“Ah, so that’s why you showed up here looking for work!” She laughed good-naturedly. “Hank seems to think I need looking after. Though truth be told, he’s not the only one.”
“He seemed genuinely concerned,” he pointed out.
“Despite what Hank likes to think, I’m perfectly capable of running my ranch! And it’s not as if I do it all alone. I have the boys, and friends from Four Corners who help when I need it. I manage.”
“You’ve built quite the life for yourself here,” he offered quietly.
“I have. And I am grateful for what God has given me.” She stood, walking over to the stove. Picking up a folded towel, she opened the oven door and removed a pie, placing it on a nearby sideboard to cool. Closing the oven, she asked, her back still to Methos, “Will you stay for long?” She sounded uncertain.
“Do you want me to?”
She shook her head, wrapping her arms around herself. Finally, she said, “Yes.”
“Charlotte, look at me,” he commanded softly.
Slowly, she turned, still clutching the towel in her hand. But she didn’t look at him.
“What is it? What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know,” she whispered. “I’ve wanted this for so long, and now that you’re here, I suppose it doesn’t seem quite real. And this is much more than you bargained for when you showed up here looking for work.”
He stood, holding his hands out to her. After a moment’s hesitation, she took a step towards him, then another, finally taking the extended hands in hers. “This is our time, Charlotte,” he told her. “Finally, this is our time. All those years I watched over you, and loved you, but could never have you. My feelings haven’t changed.” He moved both her hands into one of his, using the other to grasp her chin gently, forcing her to look at him. “Have yours?” He knew that was a possibility. There could be someone else. Charlotte was a beautiful woman and he didn’t delude himself into thinking she’d been pining for him all these years.
“No, they haven’t. But my life is complicated.” She pulled from his gentle hold, turning away. “Maybe too complicated for you.”
“I can handle complicated,” he assured her, wrapping his arms around her waist, pulling her against him. She leaned into him, sighing when he kissed the side of her neck.
Turning in his arms, she looked up at him, searching his eyes. Seeming to reach some sort of decision, she nodded. “I’ll remind you of that.”
San Luis Obispo, California ~ Present Day
Once again, Methos was sitting in her kitchen. Nearly one hundred and fifty years later, and it was as if nothing had changed. But that wasn’t true – everything had changed. She handed him a mug of strong black tea, perching against the edge of the kitchen table next to him with a mug of her own. In the quiet, she could hear the cuckoo clock in the hall ticking, and from the woodstove, the crackle of logs burning. In the distance, the sound of the surf pounding the cliffs echoed across the canyon. The sun, on its journey down the western horizon, lit the room in soft orange and pink light.
The drive back to the house had been accomplished mostly in silence, both of them seeming content to not rush this long awaited reunion. She’d given him a tour of the vineyard, the winery, and the house. But now they were finally here, Charlotte found herself falling back on small talk.
“Have you known Duncan long?”
He glanced up at her. “About fifteen years, give or take.”
“How did you meet?”
“Honestly? I was working for the Watchers.” His lips curled into a smug grin. “Adam Pierson, mild mannered grad student and researcher.”
She laughed. “Mild mannered? You? You’re a better actor than I thought!” Then she gave herself a moment to think about just what that meant. He’d been a Watcher. Biting her lip, the laughter fell away. “Methos—“
“I didn’t know where you were; the last entry in your Chronicle was St. Louis, 1827. The final one for both you and Maude actually,” he answered her unasked question. He suddenly looked a little sheepish. “I will admit, I did try and use Ezra’s Chronicle to track you down in the beginning.”
“But when I read that he was supposedly at a Tibetan Monastery, contemplating nature, I realized the Watchers had been had; and by their own.” He grinned. “Then I read his entire Chronicle, and it only confirmed my suspicions. It was fact mixed with healthy doses of absolute fiction, starting with the account of his First Death.”
Charlotte grinned cheekily. “It all worked out rather well.” Then more seriously, she asked, “But you never said anything?”
Methos snorted. “The Tanners are an old and respected Watcher family. Even if I’d wanted to, lowly researcher Adam Pierson wasn’t in a position to challenge them.”
“But you didn’t want to?” There was a soft note to her voice.
“I was hardly one to cast stones,” he explained, “considering I’d joined up with the Watchers to research myself, and make sure I was never found.”
“It isn’t easy being a myth,” Charlotte offered sympathetically.
“No kidding! He reached out, laying a hand on her thigh. “I always liked Vin, and realized what must have happened. It was well done for him to take on the job of Ezra’s Watcher; to protect him and you. I’m grateful for what he did for you both, and to his descendants for continuing their charge.”
Charlotte fought back tears, brushing at her eyes. “He was a good man and a cherished friend; he was family. I could have loved him no more had he been my own son.”
She took a moment to compose herself before asking, “So you stopped looking?”
He nodded. “I didn’t want to draw suspicion to the Tanners, and there were things happening within the Watchers that made me decide it was safer for you to let sleeping dogs lie.
“Thank you,” she said. “I don’t know if I could have been so restrained had our positions been reversed,” she admitted.
“You would have done the right thing,” Methos told her firmly.
“I hope so.” She sounded doubtful.
“And you!” Methos tried to lighten the tone of their conversation. “You’ve done an excellent job of keeping under the radar.” She almost thought she caught a note of pride in his words.
“I never liked the idea of being spied on, you know that. Though I can’t take all the credit; Maude was an excellent teacher when it came to just how to effectively disappear.” Smiling, she added, “And I’ll deny ever admitting that!”
He crossed a finger over his heart, returning her smile. “Is that your vineyard?” he asked, looking over at the triptych photograph that hung on the wall above the wine bar across from him.
Looking over her shoulder, she nodded. “Uh huh. It was a gift to celebrate the first anniversary of the winery about seven years ago.”
“It’s beautiful.” He stood, walking around the table to get a closer look. It was a panorama of the vines, tule fog drifting across them like a soft blanket, the watery late autumn sun fighting past its cover to delicately light the wintering branches. He peered closer at the signature. “Edward Sanbourne?” He sounded impressed. “You do keep rarified company these days,” he said, looking back at her.
Charlotte choked back laughter with some effort. “Oh, yes, we’re very close.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Is that a fact? And just how close are you?”
“Very.” She pursed her lips, gripping the side of the table in an effort not to lose it. But at the look on his face, she couldn’t hold back the mirth. She started giggling uncontrollably, setting her tea down before she spilled it all over herself.
Methos looked at her like she was insane. Struggling to catch her breath, she finally choked out, “Ezra. Ezra is Edward Sanbourne!” The stunned look on his face at her words only served to make her laugh even harder as she sank down into a chair holding her sides, certain she was going to pass out from laughter.
“Isn’t that something?” he finally muttered, waiting for her to gather herself.
She nodded, taking a deep breath. “Even Maude can’t deny that he has ‘God given gifts’ that aren’t necessarily cons and cards.”
“It seems I have a lot to catch up on.”
“A bit,” she agreed, finally getting a hold of herself. “You should try some of my wine, it’s much better than Duncan’s.” She pointed to the already opened bottle in front of him.
“Modest, aren’t we?” he asked, his eyes twinkling.
“Modestly is overrated,” she opined. Watching as he poured, she added, “I wouldn’t mind a glass myself.”
“But of course, my lady,” he said grandly, handing her a glass.
They toasted silently, each of them seeming lost in their own thoughts as they drank.
Then Methos sat next to her, putting down his glass and reaching out his hands. “Have you been happy, Charlotte?”
She didn’t immediately reply, swallowing a large portion of the deep red liquid first. Finally, she set aside the glass. Taking the proffered hands, she briefly closed her eyes, remembering. “There is no happiness that does not come with grief.”
“I’m sorry.” There was no doubting the sincerity of those two simple words.
“Don’t be,” she told him, squeezing his hands. “I wouldn’t trade the life I had after you left, no matter the pain it brought; because it also brought me love I would never have known.”
“Your husband—“ he began.
Charlotte wasn’t surprised Methos knew about Chris; it was one of the factual accounts in Ezra’s Chronicle. Vin’s tribute to his best friend. She shook her head sharply. “Chris and I were very happy together in the short time that was given us. I was loved,” she whispered, ducking her head and fighting back tears once more. “I loved.”
“I came back, Charlotte, hoping to find you. I went to the ranch, but you were gone and Jemma and her husband were living there with their children. She told me that you and Chris had left New Mexico, had gone to California. I thought you were married and happy, so I left it alone. It wasn’t till I read Ezra’s Chronicle that I realized you’d been a widow at the time, and that Jemma had misled me.”
Now Charlotte was crying; grief and loss overwhelming her with the memories Methos was resurrecting. He gathered her in his arms, comforting her with soothing words. She shoved her hand into her pocket, pulling out tissue and scrubbing at her eyes. “I’m sorry, I just wasn’t prepared for all of this,” she tried to explain.”
“It’s okay,” he reassured her. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“It’s not your fault.” Taking a firm grip on her emotions, she said, “Jemma told me on her deathbed what she’d done, that she’d lied to you. She did it out of love, wanting to protect me from being hurt again. She never forgave you for leaving.” She pushed back the memory of what happened after Jemma’s death. It had been one of the darkest periods in her life and right now, she wasn’t strong enough to let herself remember.
“I can’t blame her for that.” He sighed. “I could lie; tell you I wish I hadn’t left. But you and I both know that isn’t true.”
“We both did what we had to do. We made our choices. But that is the past; where do we go from here, Methos?”
“Where do you want to go, Charlotte? Because I swear to you that I will do whatever it takes to make it right this time.”
“Third time’s the charm?” she asked with a crooked smile.
“Something like that,” he agreed, holding on to her as if she might slip away.
She exhaled softly, past, present and future swirling between them like so many ghosts. Husbands, lovers, children, friends, she saw them all. Here in the twilight, the memories wrapped around her like a thousand tendrils of silk.
Meeting his gaze, she lifted his hands, brushing his knuckles with her lips. Then she said, “What I want is to wake up tomorrow morning in your arms. What happens afterwards, I don’t know, but for now, it’s enough.”
* Chǒng ér – Favourite Son