The titles, ‘When We’re From Sorrow Free’ and ‘We’ll Sing On’ are from a line in a 19th Century American shape note hymn, ‘Wondrous Love’: When we're from sorrow free, we'll sing on.
Characters: Ezra Standish, Charlotte Sparrow
Notes: PG, Magnificent Seven/Highlander, many thanks to strangevisitor7 for the beta and the inspiration. Other stories in the series may be found here.
Summary: Their secret has been revealed, but is Ezra ready to accept the consequences?
When We’re From Sorrow Free
New Mexico Territory, Summer, 1866
The sword came up and over almost faster than Ezra could track; he barely blocked the cut, the two blades ringing with the impact. He didn’t have time to ponder how close his opponent’s sword had come to his throat because another attack had already been launched, this one resulting in his sword flying from his hands as if compelled by some unseen force. That was swiftly followed by the point of a sword pressing into his chest right over his rapidly pounding heart.
Ezra hung his head, running a hand through his sweat soaked hair in frustration. It had been an exhausting few days; Charlotte pushing him during his training as she never had before. Ever since the incident in the church a week prior, where their Immortality had been revealed to the six men he rode with, she had been relentless. She had demanded a full ten days of his time, no more stolen hours in amongst his duties as one of the lawmen in Four Corners. This was only the second day; he shuddered to think of the state he’d be in by week’s end.
“Again,” she said coolly, barely even breathing hard. Wisps of dark hair curled damply against the sides of her face were the only indication of the physical exertion of the last few hours.
How on earth did she do it? he wondered. But what he said was, “Surely you cannot object to a momentary respite?” He pulled a flask out of his pocket, removing the cap and taking a long swig. Though only a few hours past dawn, the fierce summer sun was already well on its way to turning the day into an oppressive furnace.
Crossing her arms, her sword extended behind her, she fixed him with a flinty gaze. “Tell me, Ezra, do you think an Immortal intent on taking your head is going to call for a rest break in the middle of a challenge?”
His jaw stiffened at the slightly mocking tone. He had spent the last two days alternately wondering when the sweet and gentle woman who had been like a mother to him had become this fierce and merciless taskmaster and just how Maude had managed to keep her head attached to her shoulders all these years considering the provocations she routinely threw in Charlotte's path.
He fought for calm. “No, cousin, I do not, but—“
“You have yet to even get under my guard! But you thought you could run off on your own and be capable of protecting yourself!” she taunted.
“Is that was this is about?” he demanded, his eyes sparking with green fire. “Punishin’ me for what happened that night?”
“No!” She raised her sword, pointing it at him. “You told me that I was trying to have it both ways, remember? You were right. I have failed you as a teacher; allowing you to cajole and manipulate me like you were still the little boy that Maude would leave in my care, letting you shirk off training properly.” Her voice shook a little. “No more, Ezra! No more.”
Ezra grimaced at having his words flung back at him, turning away from the pain he saw in her eyes. He didn’t regret revealing their secret to the others, but what he did regret were the consequences to his relationship with Charlotte.
He winced inwardly, remembering the lies, and the angry, hurtful words he’d hurled at her that night. But even after all that, she’d still acquiesced and done as he wished. It was afterwards, almost imperceptibly at first, that her demeanor had changed. When he’d realized just what was happening, the irony of it all would have made him laugh were he not so saddened by it. Charlotte was employing one of his favoured strategies, putting up walls, keeping the people one cared about at arm’s length to protect them; and yourself.
She came to stand beside him, her sword no longer in her hand. Taking the flask from him, she took several hard swallows before capping it and handing it back. “It would be better for you to have someone else as your teacher, but there is no one else.” There was a note of defeat in her voice that troubled him.
“I disagree,” he protested softly, putting an arm around her waist and pulling her close.
Laughing sadly, she laid her head against his shoulder. “And that is just the problem. Maude was right; I should have never tried to be a mother to you. What I should have been was the teacher that you would need once you were Immortal. I became far too attached to you, Ezra, and that could mean your death.”
Ezra gently led her over to the hay bales that formed a barrier around their practice area in Charlotte’s old barn by the river. He sat on one, drawing her down to sit beside him. He stared at the spot where Maude had gunned him down to trigger his immortality only a few months before. Everything had changed in that moment. But what he didn’t want to change was his relationship with the woman who sat next to him. She had been the one constant in a childhood lived at the whim of his mother, and he was not willing to give her up without a fight.
“I would rather have had you as a mother than as a teacher, Charlotte.” He kissed the top of her head, letting his cheek come to rest there. “I do not need you to teach me to kill; I have become accomplished at that durin’ the time we've been apart.” Years of war had left him an expert. Sharply, he pulled his thoughts back from that dark time; dwelling on it now would serve no good purpose.
She drew away a little, looking up at him sadly. "That is not my aim; what I wish to teach you is how to live.”
He shook his head, not understanding. She had practically beaten him into the ground over the last two days with swordplay.
“Ezra, immortality can be a heavy burden to bear. Your grief is yet to come, but one day, you will know what it is to curse what we are. If you lose your will to go on, you will die. Do you think I haven’t bested men who were older and stronger than I was? Victory can turn on the desire to live. And I want you to live! That was the gift given me by my teacher, and the most important lesson he ever taught me; now, I pass it on to you.”
“Your teacher, the doctor?” Charlotte had told him little of her life as a new Immortal more than a century before, and as curious as he’d been, he was too much of a gentleman to pry.
“Benjamin.” She nodded. “He was a dear friend of my husband’s, and my guardian angel. He watched over me, and was there when I met my first death. I was already well versed in the use of a sword, and while he taught me to be more proficient, his real gift to me was to cherish the life I had been given. That was what allowed me to move on after my husband's death, to go off on my own and discover all the wonders that awaited me.”
Her eyes became unfocused, and her expression softened as she remembered. There was also something else he saw there, almost making him feel like a voyeur. He was no innocent, but he had always perceived Charlotte as a child would. He was now finally seeing her through the eyes of an adult; the eyes of a man.
“You loved him,” he said softly in comprehension.
She pulled herself back to the present, shaking her head as if to clear her thoughts. “I did. And he loved me enough to let me go. I can do no less for you, dearest.”
Taking her hands in his, he squeezed them tightly. “When the time comes, dear Charlotte, when the time comes; but it is not now.”
“Perhaps,” was all she said.
“I am not ready to be cast adrift just yet. Do not keep me at arm’s length out of a desire to protect me, I beg you. You were correct," he paused, lifting her hands and brushing her knuckles with his lips, "I am no longer a child. Let me prove that to you."
"There's no need, dearest. You've become a fine man, as I always knew you would." Removing her hand from his, she placed her palm against his cheek. "But I need to make sure that I do not fail you again."
Ezra sighed; knowing that to argue with her now would be pointless. He would just need to prove to her over the coming months that she hadn't failed him. "Then am I to assume that there are eight more days of gruelin' torture ahead?" he asked, his lips curving into a half smile.
"Well, maybe not an entire eight days. I think the children would like to spend time with their cousin. Perhaps a picnic might be in order?"
"I am most fond of picnics, as you may recall." He bumped her shoulder with his, grinning. "Cold fried chicken?" he asked hopefully.
"I think I can manage that." She smiled, patting his hand.
Standing, he took her hands again, drawing her to her feet. "But first, I believe we have a lesson to finish?" he drawled. "I shall endeava’ to at least keep my sword in hand this time."
Walking past him, she laughed merrily. "It is always good to have hope, Ezra."
"You may laugh, cousin, but I am quite determined in this." He leaned casually against a support post, smiling smugly.
"Is that so?" Her eyes took on a wicked gleam that made him slightly nervous. "Then perhaps you might care to place a small wager...?"
The Sequel: We'll Sing On
What wondrous love is this, oh my soul, oh my soul
What wondrous love is this, oh my soul
What wondrous love is this, that caused the Lord of Bliss
To send such perfect peace to my soul, to my soul
To send such perfect peace to my soul
Ye winged angels fly, bear the news, bear the news,
Ye winged angels fly, bear the news
Ye winged angels fly, like comets through the sky
With loud and joyful cry, bear the news, bear the news
With loud and joyful cry, bear the news
To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing
To God and to the Lamb I will sing
To God and to the Lamb, Jehovah, great I AM
And to the Son of man I will sing, I will sing
And to the Son of man I will sing
When we're from sorrow free, we'll sing on, we'll sing on
When we're from sorrow free, we'll sing on
When we're from sorrow free, we'll rise and joyful be
And through Eternity, we'll sing on, we'll sing on
And through eternity, we'll sing on
From the CD, The Border of Heaven, by Connie Dover © Taylor Park Music/Connie Dover
19th Century American shape note hymn