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 Four
Charlotte allowed her eyes to adjust to the gloom of the saloon, feeling the presence of the four men behind her. She had demanded their word that they wouldn’t interfere, but she didn’t know if that would hold when push came to shove. Their concern for Chris competed with their chivalrous instinct to protect her, despite the fact that they knew she was more than capable of looking out for herself; the habits of a lifetime were hard to break.
Taking a deep breath, she strode across the room to the bar, where Chris sat at one end, alone. His skin was pale, and she knew it would feel clammy were she to touch his face. Inez, the barkeep, looked at her, dark eyes filled with worry. Charlotte gave her a reassuring nod before turning her attention to the leader of the Seven.
Picking up his shot glass, she drained the contents, the fiery liquor burning her throat like acid. But it was a comforting fire, and she had intimate knowledge of its allure. Her action finally caused Chris to notice her presence at his side. He looked at her angrily, his hazel green eyes bloodshot, heavy with rage and grief.
“You’re done, Chris,” she said, her voice pitched low. Pushing aside the bottle of Red Eye, she put a hand over his. “You’ve done enough damage for one day, and now, we’re leaving.”
He growled something unintelligible, taking her wrist in a painful grip. “Didn’t ask you to come round, stickin’ your nose in my business!”
She easily broke his hold. “No, you didn’t, but your friends did. Though frankly, I’m not sure you deserve it. What sort of man attacks his doctor? The very man who moved heaven and earth to save your life!”
Glaring at her, fury in his eyes, he replied hoarsely, “A killer, that’s who!”
“A killer?” She laughed at him. “Yes, I suppose you are – for a child.” She wasn’t laughing anymore, her eyes now revealing the nearly two centuries she had lived. “I have known killers, Mr. Larabee, and you don’t even rate the bottom of the list.” Charlotte shivered, pushing back memories she wasn’t prepared to dwell on now. “But who knows? Maybe one day.” Her voice dripped with disdain.
That got a reaction, Chris rearing up and grabbing her arms, pushing her back against the bar, snarling obscenities. She looked past him, shaking her head at the other lawmen, hoping they would remember their promise. Ezra looked like he was ready to kill Chris, but he stayed where he was. Then she fixed her attention on the enraged man holding her. “No, not a killer, Chris, but a bully? Yes, that’s what you are, aren’t you?” She twisted, knocking him off balance, freeing herself. “It’s rather pathetic, don’t you think?” she taunted.
He lunged at her, only to find himself pinned against the bar. Charlotte didn’t want to hurt him, only get his attention. As drunk as he was, weakened from blood loss, he wasn’t much of a threat against her long lifetime of experience in the defensive arts. He was panting now, even paler than he had been when she’d walked in. She knew his nearly fatal wound mixed with alcohol consumption and violent exertion was taking its toll.
She moved in closer, almost whispering, “Mark me well, Chris. You lay a hand on me, I will press assault charges, and I will make sure you spend the next six months in prison. I am not one of your men, and I refuse to let you use me as a target for your anger. Are we quite clear?”
This time he looked at her, really looked at her, and shock suffused his features as he realized what he’d almost done. “God… Charlotte…” his voice cracked, and then failed entirely. He slumped against her, and she could feel him tremble.
She laid a hand against his side. “Hush now,” she murmured soothingly. “It will be all right, I promise you; not today, but one day.”
“My fault,” he mumbled. ‘All my fault; Sarah, Adam, because I was blind, stupid. Because of me.”
“No, Chris, the fault was not yours.” She sighed. “But you will not believe that this day either.”
“Shoulda died with them, shoulda been me,” his broken whisper floated past her into the gloom that surrounded them. “So tired, Charlotte, so damn tired. Would be better off dead.”
Wrapping her other arm around him, she stroked his back as if he were a child. “You’re far too young for heaven, dear Chris. But Sarah and Adam will wait for you, and one day, you’ll be together again.” She blinked back tears with some effort, willing strength into the devastated man in her arms. “You and I both know they wouldn’t want you to still feel their loss so deeply. It is time for you to live your life, as hard as that might be to bear.”
Shifting a little, she beckoned the other men closer. “And now, we need to get you to the clinic so I can restitch your wound.” She could feel the warm wetness of his blood as it seeped through his shirt against her hand. “Come along now,” she said gently. “Buck and Vin will help you.”
As Chris’s weight was removed from her, she sagged against the bar, Inez handing her a rag to wipe off her bloody hand. Ezra reached over, snagging a bottle from under the bar, uncorking it and handing it to her, not bothering with a glass. Gratefully, she took a long swig of the whisky, shaking a little in the aftermath.
She looked up into Ezra’s distressed eyes as he placed a gentle hand against her cheek. “It’s going to be fine.” Whether she meant Chris or herself, she wasn’t sure.