Characters: Ezra Standish, Chris Larabee, Buck Wilmington, Vin Tanner, JD Dunne, Charlotte Sparrow
Notes: PG, Magnificent Seven/Highlander, references to Pirates of the Caribbean. Many thanks to strangevisitor7 for the beta! This story directly follows 'We'll Sing On'. Other stories in the series may be found here.
Summary: Ezra's friends are no help when he tries to convince his cousin that a saloon is no place for a lady.
No Place For A Lady
They were well into the poker game when Ezra entered the saloon. Chris leaned back in his chair, waiting to see just how well Charlotte had pegged the younger man. She’d told him back at her ranch that the southerner would object to finding her in the saloon, and he was looking forward to seeing if she was right.
The gambler’s eyes darted around the dim room, seeking out what Chris knew was the other Immortal he had sensed upon entering. But the woman sitting next to him hadn’t even twitched. Nerves of steel, he thought with admiration.
“I raise,” Charlotte said, tossing a dollar coin into the center of the table. Taking a sip of her scotch, an amused smile settled on her lips as Ezra approached them with a look of consternation on his face.
“Here it comes,” Chris muttered under his breath. A soft laugh from Charlotte told him she’d heard.
“Ez!” Buck cried out as Ezra came up the steps to ‘their’ table. “Just in time t’see your beautiful cousin clean us out!”
“Hey, Ezra,” JD greeted him, pondering the cards he held in his hand before tossing one down.
“Should know better than t’play cards with any of the women in yer famly,” Vin drawled good naturedly.
“Indeed,” Ezra replied somewhat absently, not really paying attention to the other four men, fixing it instead on the woman who sat with them at the gaming table. He leaned down to kiss Charlotte on the cheek. “Cousin, while I am always delighted to have your company—“
Chris shifted in his chair as Ezra came around the table. “Four, three, two, one,” he whispered in her ear as Ezra began. She bit her lip, trying not to laugh.
“— I am certain that we can remove ourselves to a venue more suitable for a lady.” He looked at the other men disapprovingly, as if they’d failed his expectations. The disapproval became a full out glare when Chris started to laugh, sinking down in his chair, overcome with mirth.
“I fail to see what you find so amusing, Mr. Larabee. Charlotte,” sounding betrayed when he realized she was laughing too.
She tried to gather herself, but made the mistake of looking at Chris, only to start laughing all over again. The other men had bemused expressions on their faces at the antics of the gunslinger and Ezra’s cousin.
Ezra shook his head in irritation, his eyes narrowing. “And just how much have you had to drink?”
“Oh, not nearly enough, believe me,” she assured him, still breathless from laughing. Picking up her glass, she shot back the contents, much to the admiration of the men at the table.
Chris picked up the bottle at his elbow, refilling her glass. “Why thank you, kind sir,” she said, suddenly sounding as southern as Ezra.
Ezra pulled out the chair on the other side of her, sitting down with an exasperated sigh. “Now I know you’ve had too much. You only sound like a daughta’ of the Confederacy when you have overindulged.”
“I do believe I am offended by that statement, young man.” She once more drained the contents of her glass in one hard swallow. “What do you think, Chris?”
“Oh, yeah.” He nodded, smirking as he refilled her glass a second time.
Ezra looked at the bottle with a start of disbelief. “Is that my private stock?”
“I didn’t think you’d mind, darlin’,” Charlotte told him. “After all, you wouldn’t expect me to drink Red Eye now, would you?”
Snickers went round the group, and Ezra looked like he wanted to slam his head into the table. “Of course I don’t mind, cousin,” he told her patiently. Then he focused his attention on his fellow lawmen. “Despite the fact you gentlemen – and I do use that term loosely – are amused, it should be apparent even to you that this is not the proper place for a lady!”
“Hell, Ez, ain’t that bad,” Vin chuckled, obviously enjoying the shenanigans. Weren’t often any of them got to see Ezra so flustered.
“Actin’ like we took her to Digger Dan’s!” Buck protested.
“Yeah!” JD added his two cents.
“Now that would be beyond the pale! Promise me you will never allow her to set foot in that odious cesspool.”
Charlotte raised an eyebrow at that. Looking at Ezra appraisingly, she tapped her fingers against the table top. Uh oh, Chris thought. Ez had no idea just how bad he’d stepped in it this time.
“Allow, Ezra?” she enquired softly, an expectant look on her face.
“Now he’s in for it,” Buck said sotto voce, sitting back in his chair waiting for the fireworks.
Panicked realization flashed in Ezra’s green eyes and Chris could see him mentally backtracking. “My apologies, ma’am; I am just tryin’ to look out for you like a good son should.”
Smooth move! Chris thought approvingly.
Charlotte just looked heavenward with a sigh and a shake of her head, not at all taken in by his contrite words. Despite that, she patted his hand and smiled at him wryly. “Apology accepted, Ezra. And I assure you, I have no pressin’ desire to visit Digger Dan’s.”
Ezra flashed her a smile, his gold canine glinting in the lamplight. “I am delighted to hear it, cousin. Believe me, it makes this saloon seem like a veritable palace by comparison; the lowest of the low.”
Charlotte chuckled. “Clearly you’ve never been to Tortuga.”
“Tortuga?” Chris and Buck asked.
“Tortuga!” JD practically shouted, excitement lighting up his face.
“You know what she’s talkin’ ‘bout, kid?” Vin asked.
“Yeah, sure do! Tortuga was a pirate island in the Caribbean! Heck, Mrs. Black’s right; Tortuga was sort of like Puragtorio, ‘cept Purgatorio’s a whole lot nicer.”
“You are quite correct, JD,” Charlotte told him with a smile.
“Were you there? Were you a pirate?” JD asked, practically bouncing out of his chair.
“Yes, I was there, though I wasn’t a pirate. However, my second husband was a pirate captain and I visited many times.”
JD looked at her in awe. Chris chuckled; looked like some of the kid’s hero worship had just been transferred to Charlotte. A pirate's wife? Now that was something he would never have guessed. He had the sudden vision of her, sword in hand, swinging across the rigging of a pirate ship. Shaking his head, he laughed softly to himself.
"Was he a famous pirate?" JD wanted to know.
Eyes dancing, as if enjoying some private joke, she replied, "He liked to think so."
"Well don't that beat all," Buck said with a low whistle. Vin nodded his agreement, leaning back in his chair, long legs extended in front of him.
"So how'd you meet? How long were you married? Did you ever make someone walk the plank? Did you have a parrot?" JD's excited questions poured from him like water from a breaking dam.
Chris, Buck, and Vin chuckled at JD's enthusiasm, Ezra however looked peeved. "JD, such enquiries are of a personal nature and a gentleman should not pry."
The youngest member of their group looked crestfallen. "Sorry, ma'am, Ezra's right, ain't my business."
"That's all right, JD," Charlotte said reassuringly. "I do not mind answering a few of your questions. I brought the subject up, after all." The young man beamed at her.
"Charlotte, are you sure?" Ezra seemed concerned.
Squeezing Ezra's hand, she nodded. "I shall be fine, dearest. Talking about him makes me sad, but it's a happy sort of sad."
"Very well," he relented, though still looked unsure.
"And besides, it would make Jack happy to know that he has not been forgotten even after all these years."
"If you're willing to share, we're sure willing to listen," Chris told her. They all nodded, even Ezra, and he wondered just how much the gambler actually knew about Charlotte's past.
She took a deep breath, thinking for a moment before beginning, "The year would have been 1761; I was a young widow accompanying my stepdaughters back to Spain after the death of their father, my husband. We had set sail from South America and had met fair sailing 'til we reached the Caribbean. There was a fierce storm that left our ship severely damaged and many of the officers and crew dead. It was an easy target for the Black Pearl."
"Somethin' bite you, kid?" Vin asked with a grin.
The young sheriff blushed. Then he said in a rush, "The Black Pearl was Jack Sparrow's ship and he was the best pirate in the Caribbean and he sacked Nassau port without firing a shot!" He finally stopped to take a breath.
Charlotte laughed softly. "Correct on all counts."
"Tarnation, kid, how d' you know so much 'bout pirates?" Buck asked.
"Read about em all the time when I was a kid back east! Reckon if there were still pirates like Jack Sparrow around now, I mighta been a pirate instead of coming out west to be a gunslinger!" His statement brought more amused laughter from his companions.
"Never change, my boy," Ezra told him, slapping him on the shoulder.
"So you married the pirate who seized your ship?" Chris asked. He wasn't sure how he felt about that, but didn't quite know how to express the discomfort her revelation caused. Not any of yer damn business, he reminded himself harshly.
Something of his inner turmoil must have shown on his face, because the look Charlotte gave him was one of gentle understanding. She touched his hand briefly before picking up her glass and taking a swallow of her drink.
"Not right away; I challenged him to a duel first." A wicked smile curved her lips as her words registered with the men seated around her. “But that’s a story for another time.”
JD couldn’t quite suppress his groan of disappointment at her declaration.
Then she continued, "Unfortunately, I had been injured during the storm and passed out at his feet. As you might imagine, medical knowledge wasn't what it is today, and I almost died of infection and fever – I was still quite mortal then. Jack procured a physician to see to me and nursed me back to health. Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with him; though Jack always insisted he had loved me from the moment I pulled a sword on him. We were married for an amazing and blessed forty-seven years." She swallowed, brushing at her eyes with her fingertips. "Thank you," she whispered as Ezra handed her a handkerchief.
Chris realized why Ezra had been reluctant to have Charlotte answer JD's questions. After sixty years had passed, she still loved her late husband; even though it was clear the memories brought more joy than sorrow. He wondered what it must be like to know that you would be remembered and loved for centuries after you were gone.
Dabbing at her eyes with the square of fine linen she held in her hand, she gave them a shaky smile. "Please, do not look so tragic!” she told them. “Love and loss are inseparable, but I would not give up those that I love no matter the pain it might bring one day." She looked at Ezra when she spoke, and he nodded in understanding, kissing her cheek and squeezing her hand.
"Thanks for tellin us about him, ma'am," JD said, his big brown eyes wide and looking very young.
"You're welcome, JD. And I promise the next time you all come for Sunday lunch, I shall tell you some stories about Jack and his adventures."
"We'll look forward to it, ma'am," Buck said. "Been missing your fine table these last weeks, and your even finer company." He gave her his patented lady-killer smile, eyes sparkling mischievously.
"Why, Mr. Wilmington," she smiled at him coquettishly, "flattery will get you everywhere."
"I sure do hope so," he replied with a big wink. Chris rolled his eyes and Vin snorted.
"Mr. Wilmington, I will remind you to keep a civil tongue in your head when addressin' my cousin," Ezra said with mock censure.
"Hell, ask anyone, Ez, I'm always civil ‘round the ladies." Buck puffed out his chest, looking more than a little pleased with himself.
Charlotte giggled at their antics.
"I second Bucklin, Mz. Black. Been missing your company and would be proud to come t' Sunday lunch even if there were no pie," Vin told her softly. Then his blue eyes took on a concerned look. "But there will be pie, right?" He gave her a lopsided grin.
"Can't take them anywhere," Ezra proclaimed long-sufferingly, lips twitching despite his tone.
"Considering how long it's been since you gentlemen have been my guests, I am sure there should be several pies."
Vin looked pleased. "Yer a fine lady, ma'am, and that's a fact."
Chris raised his glass for a toast. "To a fine lady and our favourite pirate!"
All the men followed suit, and Charlotte actually blushed, which Ezra seemed to find incredibly amusing as he whispered something in her ear that earned him a light smack on the arm.
They all drank, and Chris leaned back in his chair in satisfaction. The last month had been full of emotional upheaval, but all was once again right with the world. They had come through it all with a tighter bond and a better understanding of each other; and now Charlotte and Ezra were finally both firmly entrenched in their family. He would make sure they all remembered that in the months to come.
Ezra started dealing cards, complaining all the while that Charlotte would play cards with the other men, but never played with him, and Buck and Vin were teasing him about it. JD was on the floor, trying to retrieve his hat after Buck had knocked it off the table, loudly protesting his friend’s behavior. Charlotte just shook her head in amusement at all the hubbub, picking up the cards she’d been dealt. Then she looked at Chris, as if feeling his eyes on her, and smiled up at him.
Leaning in, he said softly, "It's good to belong somewhere."
Nodding, she replied, "Thank you for reminding me of that."
"I forgot that myself for a real long time; just passin it on."
"And I am very much obliged."
Chris grinned. "Anything for a lady."