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 Five
“Nathan, I really must insist that you calm yourself,” Charlotte scolded gently as the healer yet again fussed at Vin to let him up off the bed.
“Honest, I could do them stitches,” Nathan protested.
They were in Nathan’s clinic and Charlotte was preparing to restitch Chris’s bullet wound. Due to the cramped quarters, Buck, Josiah, and JD had left, leaving Vin and Ezra to assist Charlotte. Chris had blacked out at some point on the journey up to the clinic, which left Nathan the only conscious patient. The healer had been agitated since they’d brought Chris in, and Vin had done his best to calm their unwilling patient; but to no avail.
“Maybe we should brew one of yer fine healin’ teas there, Nathan. Sure it would make ya feel a whole lot better.” There was a bit of an evil gleam in Vin’s eyes.
Ezra chuckled and even Charlotte’s lips twitched at the rather vengeful tone underlying the sharpshooter’s words.
“Don’t need none! And there ain’t nothin’ wrong with my teas!” Nathan said firmly. “Y’all just don’t know what’s good for you.” He tried to get out of the bed again, only to have Vin push him back down one more time.
“Really, ma’am, wouldn’t be no trouble t’ take care of stitchin’ Chris up,” he entreated, obviously not willing to trust Chris in anyone’s hands but his.
“Mr. Jackson, I assure you that I have stitched a wound before. Why, I used to stitch Ezra up all the time when he was a child, and really, the scars aren’t all that bad.” She turned to Ezra. “Are they, dear?”
It was all Ezra could do not to laugh out loud; the panicked look on Nathan’s face was priceless. He’d forgotten how good Charlotte’s innocent, butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, act was. “No, the scars are not bad at all, cousin,” he replied smoothly. “Why, I hardly notice them anymore.” He shrugged a shoulder negligently.
“There, you see?” she said airily, Then an impish smile settled on her lips, and Nathan realized he’d been had when Ezra finally gave in to laughter.
Vin chuckled, shaking his head. “Had ya goin’ there!”
“Oh, yeah, y’all are real funny!” he grumped.
“Nathan, if it will reassure you at all, remember that Matthew was a doctor,” she said, referring to her former teacher, Methos, and until recently, her betrothed. “I used to assist him in his surgery in the days when I was still mortal, and I worked in a field hospital during the war.” She paused before adding, “The Revolutionary War, that is.”
Nathan looked abashed. “Sorry, ma’am, didn’t mean to offend you.”
“Nonsense,” she replied briskly. “No offense taken. You had no idea, and your concern does you credit. You’re a fine healer, Nathan.”
Dropping his eyes, looking bashful, he muttered, "Thank you, Mz Black.”
“You’re quite welcome, Nathan, but it’s only the truth.” Turning her attention back to Chris’s unconscious form, she said, “Shall we begin?”
Chris fought back the heavy blanket of unconsciousness that smothered him, that kept him trapped in the dark. Pain was the first thing to register in his awareness, followed by the scent of lavender and the cool caress of soft bedding against his skin. Shards of memory cascaded around him: a letter, a photo, guilt, rage, despair. Where was he? Somewhere, in memories lost, he knew something had happened, but what, he couldn’t recall.
“Calm yourself, Chris,” a voice said softly. A southern accented voice. One he recognized.
“Ezra?” he croaked, not sure if any sound had actually passed his painfully parched throat. He peered towards the sound of the voice, the dim light of the oil lamp on the table next to him making him squint.
“Yes.” Anticipating his question, Ezra said, “You are at Charlotte’s ranch.” Ezra’s arm supported him as he held a glass to his mouth. Chris greedily sipped the water that lapped at his lips. Then he was laid back down against soft pillows.
“What?” Yet again he seemed unable to construct more than a word. But Ezra once more seemed to divine his meaning.
“What happened?” He chuckled, the sound holding a darkness that was at odds with his conversational tone. “A bottle too many of Red Eye and an impact between your fist and Mr. Jackson’s face is what happened.”
Chris tried to push himself up, but his body refused to cooperate. God, what had he done?
Ezra continued, “In the process you managed to tear your stitches, which required Charlotte to piece you back together, Nathan not being physically able to do so, having his own injury to be dealt with.”
Chris grimaced; despite Ezra’s matter-of-fact tone, he knew the gambler was pissed. “What else?”
“Isn’t that enough?” Ezra tsked reprovingly.
“Ezra!” Chris rasped out, though the threat lost some of its power when his voice cracked.
“Very well. What else? It was decided that it would be best for everyone concerned were you to recuperate here. You became fevered, and Charlotte and I have nursed you these last two days.”
Charlotte. Her voice drifted across his addled memory…Not a killer, but a bully….
“Charlotte,” Chris whispered. “Ez, did I do anything?” Fear gripped his gut, melding with the pain. “Did I hurt her?”
This time, Ezra’s laughter was decidedly unpleasant. “Mr. Larabee, had you harmed my cousin in any way whatsoever, believe me, you would not be waking up quite so soon.”
Chris didn’t doubt that. Despite the façade Ezra had perfected of indolent gambler, the man had an edge; an edge that had been honed to razor sharpness over the last year. “Nathan okay?”
“Charlotte stitched his head wound and he is now under the watchful eye of Josiah, saint that he is. If there was ever any doubt, Mr. Jackson makes for a terrible patient.”
“Guess I owe Josiah one,” Chris said with a dejected sigh.
Once more there came the darkly amused laugh. “Oh believe me, Chris, your ledger is replete with red ink when it comes to a great many of our little group after these latest events.”
“That include you, Ezra?” He looked at the gambler intently, trying to read his unreadable expression.
Ezra just leaned back in his chair, rubbing his thumb and middle finger together. Then he said, “In truth, I find the current situation quite advantageous.” He flashed a half smile, before settling a piercing look on Chris. “Something happened in this house to unnerve Charlotte, and her current despondent state concerns me greatly.”
Chris realized with some surprise that it had been weeks since he’d seen Charlotte. When had it been? Just after her intended had taken off – had to be. He remembered talking to her just after it had happened. She’d explained that there was some trouble from Matthew’s past and the Immortal had done what he’d had to do by leaving. Charlotte had obviously been sad, but she’d been composed and had given every indication that she’d accepted the situation. He’d been such a lousy friend to her and to Ezra that he hadn’t noticed how much time had passed since that day, or even that there was anything worrying Ezra.
“What do you need from me?”
“My hope is that during your sojourn here that you will be able to convince Charlotte to confide in you.” He held up a hand to forestall Chris’s incipient protest. “I am not asking you to betray her confidence. I do not need to know what happened, only to know she has a friend who does. You do remember how to be a friend, don’t you, Mr. Larabee?” the last said in a voice nearly cold enough to freeze water.
Chris winced a little at that, not that he didn’t deserve it. He had so many fences to mend with his friends after what had happened over the last few weeks. Despite all that, they had stood by him; were still standing by him. “Rest easy, Ezra. I’ll do whatever it takes to make this right – for all of you. I’ll look out for Charlotte while I’m here, and after that, if need be. You have my word.” He held out his hand.
Ezra took the proffered hand, shaking it. “Then you and I have an accord.”