Notes: This story picks up just after the closing scene in the final episode of the series, 'Obsession'. WIP, Magnificent Seven/Highlander, a story in the 'Echoes the Sea' series. Many thanks to strangevisitor7 for beta duties and brainstorming.
Characters: Ezra Standish, Chris Larabee, Vin Tanner, Buck Wilmington, Josiah Sanchez, Nathan Jackson, JD Dunne, OFC.
Summary: There are times when the only way to escape the dark, and the demons that haunt you, is to have friends who refuse to let you fall.
Too Young For Heaven ~ Part Two
Charlotte tied her bonnet more securely against the wind that whipped and curled down the main street of Four Corners. It had been a quiet ride into town with Ezra, the young man not pressing her into conversation, for which she was grateful. She knew he was troubled over her current mental state, but there was nothing he could do, nor did she want to burden him with her uncertainties and fear. And to talk about it would only force her to live it all over again, something she wasn’t ready for. No, keeping her own counsel was for the best.
Ezra, greeting the two men who were walking towards them, pulled her from her reverie.
“Buck, Vin,” she said politely, studiously ignoring the concerned looks they flashed at Ezra. She knew she looked like hell and didn’t need the reminder.
“Ma’am,” the two lawmen replied, touching the brims of their hats.
“Ez, not sure Charlotte being here now is for the best,” Vin said with a quiet solemnity.
“Things have changed,” Buck added.
“What's happened?” Ezra asked sharply.
“Mail came just after ya left; letter from Ella with a photo of her’n Chris. Signed herself ‘Ella Gaines Larabee’,” Vin explained.
“Not an hour later, Chris parked himself in the saloon. Been there ever since,” Buck finished, his voice a mixture of concern and anger at his best friend’s actions.
“He shouldn’t be drinking with that serious a gunshot wound!” Charlotte exclaimed, furious at the man for being such a fool.
“You know that, and we know that, but Chris don’t give a damn,” Buck said in exasperation.
“Our brother’s soul is riddled with guilt and regret,” Josiah intoned, joining the group on the boardwalk just past the saloon.
“He’ll be riddled with more that that once I’m done with him,” Charlotte muttered under breath.
Ezra, hearing her, snorted, his lips twisting into a half smile. “Of that, I have no doubt,” he replied softly. Then he said in a louder voice, "Then what's to be done, gentlemen?"
"Exactly what was intended in the first place," Charlotte said firmly, waving away the objections that swirled around her. "I didn't let Ezra drag me all the way out here to simply get back on my horse and ride away, leaving Chris alone with his demons!"
While she and the gunfighter didn’t always see eye to eye, she considered him a good friend. Indeed, all the men that her former ward rode with were like family to her now. She could no more walk away from Chris Larabee, grieving and lost, than she could from Ezra.
Buck shook his head. “Charlotte, as much as we want to help Chris, none of us are gonna risk sending you in there when he’s in this state. I know full well what he’s like when the drink strips away the man he is, leaving nothin’ but the rage and the hopelessness. It ain’t safe.”
“Buck, believe me when I tell you that I will be fine. Even if Chris were to somehow hurt me, as an Immortal, any damage would be fleeting.”
“And you think that matters? You’re a woman, and there ain’t never an excuse for a man to raise a hand to ya in anger. It would surely kill Chris if something were to happen when he’s like this.” Buck put his hand on her shoulder, his normally happy visage now sad and tired. “And I could never forgive myself if he hurt you.”
Placing a gentle hand on his wrist, she nodded, understanding exactly what the ladies man was trying to tell her. “Chris is not the first man I have known to fall prey to such darkness, seeking solace in a bottle. You have to trust me, Buck; I can handle Chris. He’s my friend too, and I need you to let me try and help him.” She looked at the gathered men, finally locking eyes with Ezra. “You, all of you, need to let me do this and not interfere.” Ezra clenched his jaw, but he nodded his acquiescence, the other men following suit upon seeing his acceptance.
Buck sighed, squeezing her shoulder before letting his hand drop. “I do trust you, Charlotte. God only knows I hope you can get through to him before it’s too late. I dunno if he can come back from this, I truly don’t.”
“We’ll stand with you,” Josiah told her as the small group began to make their way towards the saloon.
“Don’t much like it,” Vin said. “But I’m mighty grateful.” She patted the sharpshooter’s arm comfortingly, earning her a shy smile.
Buck managed a chuckle. “You’re a dammed stubborn woman.”
“You have no idea,” Ezra replied, rolling his eyes.
Loud voices and a crash coming from the saloon interrupted her response. The shouts were swiftly followed by a body crashing through the batwing doors. Ezra grabbed her arm, pulling her behind him protectively.
“Nathan?” Buck queried as they realized the prone figure in front of them was the town’s healer. “What the hell happened?”