Rating: PG15 for adult situations.
Notes: 3:10 To Yuma/Magnificent Seven/Highlander, a story in the 'Echoes the Sea' AU series, Ben Wade/OFC. This exists entirely due to the repetitive poking efforts of ninjababe and her posse. This story is set a few weeks after the events in strangevisitor7's story Child Of My Heart.
Characters: Ben Wade, Chris Larabee, Vin Tanner, Ezra Standish, Oren Travis, Charlotte Sparrow.
Summary: Ben Wade's arrival in New Mexico brings him full circle with his past.
Six Weeks Later
Charlotte stopped at the bottom of the steps leading to her front door. She was home, and home was a very good place to be.
“Ma’am?” Vin asked quietly at her side.
Glancing up at him, she smiled softly. “I am just taking a moment to appreciate what I have.” The glow of lamplight spilled through the windows, tingeing the early dusk outside with warmth and welcome. From somewhere inside, she could hear her childrens’ laughter, and she realized how very much she had missed that sound.
Vin didn’t say anything, but she knew he understood. The last three weeks had brought her to a new appreciation of the young tracker, and she thanked God for the friend He had brought to Ezra. Though initially she had been outraged at the young man’s audacity at insisting on traveling with her, it had only taken a few days on the trail for her to value his company. Vin Tanner was a fine man, and Charlotte was proud to consider him a friend.
They had traveled to Bisbee, and Charlotte had done as Ben asked; successfully convincing Alice Evans that moving to Doña Ana would be best for her and her children. And now, that chapter of Charlotte’s life was finally ended. She wasn’t sure where this next chapter would lead, but it would be filled with the love and the comfort of family and friends; for that, she was grateful.
Slowly, she walked up the stairs, reaching the large ironbound oak door. But before she could open it, the door was flung wide, Patrick, Penney, and Jess, throwing themselves at her in an excited rush, while Jemma and Timothy leaned over the mass of younger children to kiss her on the cheek.
“It’s good to have you home, mama,” Jemma said. “We’ve all missed you something terrible.”
“Missed you, mama,” Timothy agreed.
“It’s good to be home,” she said, brushing Jemma’s face with her palm, and squeezing Timothy’s shoulder. “I’ve missed you all so much!” she told them all, leaning down to gather the younger children in a hug.
“Did you bring us presents?” Penney asked excitedly.
“I’m not sure.” She looked at Vin with a grin. “Do you recall presents, Mr. Tanner?”
Vin made a great show of scratching his chin, as if trying to remember. “Reckon I’ll have to think on it some.”
The children’s groans turned to whoops of joy as Charlotte said, “Of course there are presents!”
She looked down the hall, feeling an Immortal presence, smiling at Ezra as he entered the tiled foyer holding Constance in his arms.
“Now, children,” Ezra said, “let’s give your mother enough room to breathe, shall we?” He handed Constance to Charlotte, who rocked the toddler in her arms, kissing her face all over. “I do believe Beth could use some help in the kitchen with dinner preparations.”
Jemma and Timothy herded their siblings out, with Charlotte promising she would tell them all about her travels at supper.
“Vin,” Ezra slapped the tracker on the shoulder, “good to have you back.”
“Good to be back,” Vin acknowledged with a grin. “How ‘bout I take the lil’ one back to the kitchen? Sure you two would like to do some catching up.” He took Constance from Charlotte, the two-year-old immediately latching onto Vin’s long hair.
“Thank you, Vin,” Charlotte said, leaning up to kiss him on the cheek, “for everything.”
“Were my pleasure, ma’am. Ez.” Vin gave him a nod before leaving the two alone.
Charlotte hugged Ezra tightly. “Thank you for looking out for the children while I was away.”
He returned her embrace. “That’s what family is for.”
Stepping back, she took his hands in hers, squeezing them. She looked up at his dear face, remembering the child he’d been. “This time, I hope you had no doubts of my returning,” she said softly….
Richmond, Virginia, 1850
Charlotte wearily tossed her hat and gloves onto the table next to the front door. She had hired a buggy at the docks to bring her home; Mr. Holcombe would fetch her things from the ship later. It had been a long voyage back to Virginia with nothing but thoughts of Ben to fill it, no matter how she had tried to push his memory into the back of her mind. Looking around the grand entry, she felt only a sad emptiness in her heart. When Ezra wasn’t here, this was a house, not a home.
But her feeling of melancholy swiftly fled as the gentle murmur of a pre-immortal presence floated into her awareness. Then the sitting room door opened, and Ezra was racing down the hall towards her at full tilt, throwing his arms around her waist.
“Cousin Charlotte, you came back!” the boy said, looking up at her with suspiciously bright eyes.
“But of course I did, dearest,” she said, dropping to her knees to enfold him in her arms. He buried his head into her shoulder, and she realized he was crying. “Ezra, what’s wrong?” She looked up at Livy, who had joined them.
“The young master was afraid you wouldn’t be returning to us,” she told her mistress. “Not a one of us could ease his mind.” She ruffled Ezra’s hair. “See? What did I tell you, Master Ezra? Madam always comes home.”
Charlotte stroked Ezra’s back comfortingly. “How long?” she asked her maid.
“Herself dropped him off two weeks ago,” Livy told her with a sniff.
“Thank you, Livy.” She gave the woman a look of gratitude. “A cup of tea wouldn’t be amiss.”
Livy nodded her understanding, leaving the two of them alone.
Gently, she disentangled herself from Ezra’s grip. Pulling a handkerchief from her pocket, she began to wipe his tearstained face. “It’s all right now, child, I am home.”
He nodded, green eyes huge in his face. “I thought I’d been bad and you wouldn’t come back,” he admitted shakily.
She sat on the floor, pulling him down into her lap, holding him against her chest. “I will always come back to you, my dearest. I swear to you; I would never leave you.”
“I promise, with all my heart….”
I made the right choice, she thought as she looked into Ezra’s eyes. Then, and now.
He chuckled. “I never had any doubt, Charlotte. You have always been here for me, whether I knew it or not.”
Eyes twinkling, she asked, “And have you been doing your sword practice while I’ve been away?”
Groaning dramatically, he shook his head before kissing her on the forehead. “Will there ever be a time when you won’t be my teacher?”
Releasing his hands, she nodded. “There will be a day when you will not need me anymore, Ezra. But till then, I shall do my best to prepare you for the centuries ahead of you, as I have always done.”
Ezra took her face between his hands. “I will always need you, cousin.”
She put her hand against one of his. “Perhaps; but a time will come when you will spread your wings and find your own way. That is how it must be for our kind.”
She stepped away, but before she could leave, Ezra took her arm in a gentle hold, stopping her. “Promise me that you’ll be waiting for me when I come home, no matter how many years pass.”
“I promise, Ezra, with all my heart.”