Notes: A sequel to ‘He’s a Pirate’, set a few months before the events in 'Practical Applications'. A crossover with Magnificent Seven and a story in the Echos the Sea/Aces Immortal series. Thanks to strangevisitor7 for the beta.
Characters: Methos, Duncan MacLeod, Ezra Standish, Original Characters.
Summary: It’s been a century and a half since Methos last saw Charlotte and Ezra. His reappearance in their lives brings back many memories; not all of them happy ones.
What Family Is For
“I thought you were in London,” Charlotte said quietly as she pulled the cozy off the teapot on the kitchen island, before pouring tea into a waiting mug.
“The subject of my shoot checked herself into rehab,” he replied coolly, leaning against the large oak plank kitchen table. Before she could respond, he asked, “And just when exactly were you going to inform me of your joyous reunion?”
“There are these remarkable devices called cell phones; you may have heard of them?” he enquired mockingly.
“Stop it, Ezra! I will not discuss this with you in your present mood,” she warned.
He ignored her. “And when would you like to talk about it?” he asked bitterly. “Before or after he destroys your life again?
“I do not owe you an accounting of my activities,” she snapped, reigning in her temper with obvious effort.
He slapped the palm of his hand against the table, the sharp sound echoing around the quiet room. “How can you be so incredibly foolish, Charlotte?” His voice rose. “Surely he can’t be that good in bed that you’re willing to court the danger he brings to your life?” He was exasperated and he was angry and the words were out before he could stop them.
She paled, her knuckles white as she grasped the edge of the granite countertop. “You aren’t a child anymore, Ezra, and I am longer required to put your happiness above my own. You can either accept Methos is a part of my life once more or you can leave,” she said with a cold finality that left no doubt she was serious.
He laughed hollowly. “I choose the latter.” Spinning on his heel, he stalked across the kitchen and out the door, slamming it behind him.
A cold wind was blowing off the ocean, chilling him as he took long strides across the field. He ran a frustrated hand through his hair, feeling a sick gnawing in his gut that wasn’t from hunger. He slowed, shoving his hands into his jeans pockets, replaying it all in his mind. For a moment, he’d thought Charlotte was going to slap him. And maybe that would have been preferable to her telling him he could leave in that cold voice. This wasn’t how it went; he and his mother fought like cats and dogs, and had for as long as Ezra could remember. But not Charlotte; he could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times they’d had serious words between them. He winced a little at what he’d said in the heat of anger.
He came to a stop, realizing he hadn’t arrived home, but had ended up at the outlook instead. Sighing, he sank onto the redwood bench swing that overlooked the Pacific, burying his face in his hands. Oh how he wished he could start this day all over again and take back everything that had happened.
He wasn’t sure how long he’d sat there, staring at the ocean, before he felt another Immortal presence.
A few moments after, Charlotte’s voice said from behind him, “Is there room for me?” She came around the bench, holding a mug. She held it out to him. “You forgot your coffee.” She’d dressed, wearing faded gray jeans, a pale blue cotton sweater, and roper boots.
Nodding silently, he took the mug from her, cradling it in his hands before taking a long swallow.
Sitting down on the grass at his feet, she put a hand on his knee, looking up at him pensively. “I’m sorry, Ezra.”
“As am I, Charlotte. I wish I could blame the fact I haven’t slept for thirty-six hours, or jet lag, for my abominable behaviour, but that would be a cop out.”
“I don’t even have that excuse,” she said sadly. “I was spiteful and petty; I have never regretted a moment of the time you were with me when you were a child. I hope you can forgive me.”
“You had every right to be angry, cousin. I was disrespectful in the extreme. I had no right to say the things I did.” He felt his heart unclench, relieved that they were making amends.
“I hope you won’t leave, Ezra, but I would understand if you did.”
He chuckled. “If I left, who would make sure Methos treats you as a gentleman should?”
She joined his laughter. “Whom indeed?” She pulled her leg up underneath her. “It won’t be like last time, I promise you. There is no social pressure in this age for us to marry for propriety’s sake. We’ve made no commitments, nor do I have any expectations; a modern relationship, Ezra.”
He leaned down, touching her face briefly. “And do you honestly think you can settle for that, Charlotte?”
“I’d rather have him for a few years than not at all.”
Sighing, he asked, “You do realize you are setting yourself up for heartache?”
“Probably,” she answered, a half smile twisting her lips. “Remember, I was raised in a time long before the expectation of true love or happily ever after. While my first marriage wasn’t quite an arranged one, it was a match that pleased my father. Alejandro was a good man; he respected and cherished me, and I counted myself fortunate to have such a fine husband. But, Ezra, I was barely eighteen when we married. Any ideas I might have ever had of marrying for love were short lived ones.”
Ezra laid a hand on her shoulder. “But you aren’t eighteen anymore, dear Charlotte, and you deserve love.”
“And I’ve had love! I have been married three times, and while the first was not a love match, you know I can not say that of my subsequent marriages. I loved Jack and Chris with all my heart, and they returned that love. I have been blessed, Ezra, truly, I have. And Methos does love me, though I realize you don’t believe that.” The last was said with no acrimony.
“I just want you to be happy.”
“And I am, dearest. I have been alone for a very long time, and mostly, that hasn’t bothered me. I have the love of family and friends; but there are times when I want more. Methos makes me happy, and I can love him, knowing that there is no inevitable grief that lies but a few short years in the future. I’ve buried too many that I have loved, Ezra.” Layers of sadness touched her words.
Bowing his head, he nodded, unable to speak as memories of his own two wives overwhelmed him: a redheaded ingénue who sang like an angel on the Parisian stage, and a woman with sky blue eyes and the courage of a lion, talking their way past a Nazi checkpoint.
She got up from the ground, coming to sit next to him on the swing and wrapping an arm around his shoulders. “Dearest Ezra, I know how much you loved them both. And they loved you. They will be a part of you forever.”
It shouldn’t have surprised him that Charlotte knew exactly where his thoughts had gone. She’d always had an uncanny knack of seeing into his heart. And somehow, she always ended up being the one comforting him.
Returning her embrace, he asked, “And what about his past? How do you know—“
She stopped him. “It’s a chance I am willing to take,” she said firmly.
Shaking his head, he squeezed her arm. “I don’t like it, but you were right, back at the house. I’m not a child any longer, and the last thing I would want is to be the reason once more that you were alone…”
New Mexico Territory ~ Autumn, 1866
Ezra followed Charlotte into her wood paneled study. “I was hoping you might join me tomorrow evening at the Standish Tavern for something of a grand opening celebration?”
“I wouldn’t miss it!” she assured him. “I am so proud of you, Ezra.” Reaching up, she kissed him on the cheek, placing the palm of her hand against his heart. “It was a remarkable accomplishment for you to put together the sum of money needed to secure the mortgage.”
Ezra felt as if he might blush at her praise, and wondered if he would always sometimes feel as if he were an uncertain ten-year-old. Most likely, he decided with a rueful grin, watching Charlotte as she moved away.
Charlotte sat herself at the Chippendale double pedestal desk, taking out paper and pen. “I think this calls for a celebratory drink, don’t you?”
“Indeed I do, cousin,” he agreed, crossing the room to the bar and picking up a cut crystal decanter of whisky. He poured two measures into each of their glasses, while behind him, he could hear the sound of pen scratching against paper.
She stood as he came around the desk, accepting the glass he held out to her. “To happiness and success,” she toasted.
Returning the toast, he clinked his glass against hers before taking an appreciative sip of the Highland Park eighteen-year-old single malt whisky. Charlotte truly did have an appreciation for the finer things in life; an appreciation she had instilled in him during their time together.
Setting down her glass, she picked up the paper she’d been writing on, handing it to Ezra. He looked down at it curiously, eyes widening as he realized it was a bank draft made out to him. “Charlotte,” he protested, “I can not accept your money.”
“Nonsense,” she said briskly, refusing to take the draft back. “Come now, Ezra, are you going to tell me you haven’t been seeking investors for your new enterprise?”
He sighed. “You know I cannot.”
“So you will take their money, but not mine?” She arched a brow, waiting for his reply.
He had no idea how to answer in a way that didn’t either insult her or grant the point in her favour. Charlotte could be every bit as difficult to deal with as Maude when the mood struck.
Realizing his quandary, she reached out and stroked his cheek. “Dear Ezra, I provide for all my children.” She forestalled his response with a finger against his lips. “Let me finish, please.” He nodded and she smiled at him fondly. “I know I am not your mother, but you are as dear to me as if you were a child of my own body. “
He dipped his head, her words touching his heart.
“I sent Cecily to art school in Paris, Jemma and Timothy will have this ranch when it is my time to move on, and Jess will most likely go to medical school. As the other children grow up, I will do my best to make their dreams a reality as well. You would not allow me to help you purchase the saloon; can you not at least accept my contribution as an investor? It is not a gift or a loan, it is strictly business. Remember all the times you would come with me to the shipping offices? There was a practical reason for that; I wanted to teach you the skills to run a business of your own one day. And I know my investment is in excellent hands.”
He nodded, and then overwhelmed with emotion by her faith in him, he wrapped his arms around her, hugging her tightly. “You have given me so much that is worth far more to me than any amount of money, Charlotte,” he said huskily.
She returned his embrace. “As have you, dearest; that is what family is for. Always remember that.”
“I shall.” He stepped away from her, trying to gather himself.
She realized he needed a moment, sitting back down at her desk to put away her writing supplies.
He took a few mouthfuls of his drink, the smoky warmth of the alcohol calming him. Idly he mused that maybe he actually owed Maude thanks for taking him from the orphanage when he was two. Without that event, he would have never known Charlotte. And while he’d always been grateful for her presence in his life, he was even more so now that he was Immortal. He knew how fortunate he was in having her as his teacher, and more importantly, her love. He turned his attention back to the object of his thoughts, realizing that she was singing softly to herself. He recognized the song as ‘Shady Grove’.
Peaches in the summertime
Apples in the fall
If I can't have the one I love
I won't have none at all
Shady Grove, my little love
Shady Grove, my darling
Shady Grove, my little love
I'm going back to Harlan
Cheeks as red as the blooming rose
Eyes of the prettiest brown
You are the darling of my heart
Love me when the sun goes down
Seemingly unaware of his scrutiny, she continued to sing, a look of contentment on her face and a soft smile on her lips. Ezra couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen his cousin quite so happy. It didn’t take any great leap for him to realize that Matthew Adamson was the reason for her blissful mood.
He thought back to his childhood; surely Charlotte had been in love at some point during the years she’d been his guardian? He remembered fine gentlemen calling at the house, and his fear that she’d marry one of them and he’d be cast aside, his presence not welcomed by her new husband. Just the way it had been with several of Maude’s husbands. And then he would be alone and unwanted once more.
He had to know. “Charlotte,” he said quietly.
“Yes, Ezra? she asked, looking up at him.
“Will you answer me a question honestly?”
“I am not on the habit of answering you dishonestly,” she chided gently.
“My apologies, cousin, I did not mean to imply that; only that you have a tendency to couch your answers in ways that would not damage my feelings.”
“Is that so? Then I shall endeavour to crush your spirit more often in future,” she said wryly.
“Very amusing, Charlotte.”
She smirked, waving him on to ask his question, before taking a sip of her scotch.
“Were you alone all the years I was growing up for my sake?” He watched intently for a clue as to her answer.
Cocking her head, she replied lightly, “Don’t be silly! I just felt that Maude had been married quite enough for the both of us.”
“Charlotte!” he said in exasperation. This was exactly what he’d meant.
Dropping her eyes, she looked down into the amber liquid she swirled in her glass and sighed. “Oh, Ezra, it really isn’t as you might think. Yes, you did play a part in the choices I made, but that’s what a parent does. I knew how many of your mother’s marriages distressed you, and didn’t want to be the cause of yet more emotional upheaval in your young life.”
He was saddened by her answer, as much as he’d suspected what it might be. His upset must have been obvious, Charlotte coming up to him and placing her hands on either side of his face.
“Ezra, listen to me; there is nothing for you to feel guilt over. I swear to you that there was no one that I loved enough to consider marrying, and that is the truth.”
He took her hands in his, kissing the back of one hand, before leading her over to the divan in front of the fireplace and sitting down. “How can I not feel regret that I was the cause of you spending so many years alone?”
Sighing in exasperation, she took his wrist in a firm grip, shaking it a little. “Stop it! You were not the reason. I told you I would answer you honestly, and I have.”
He looked into her eyes. “What about Mr. Beamish?”
“Ellery?” She laughed. “You remember him, do you?”
“He wanted to send me to military school,” he said dryly.
Ezra had been twelve when Ellery Beamish had started calling on Charlotte, and he had loathed the man. He was wealthy, charming, and very handsome; something the man was well aware of. Ezra had been convinced that Charlotte would marry him, and he still remembered eavesdropping on them the evening Beamish had proposed to his cousin. Ezra had thought his entire world was about to be destroyed. But then a miracle had happened; Charlotte had declined his offer of marriage.
“Yes, well, considering the campaign you waged against the man, I suppose we can’t entirely blame him for that, now can we?” Her eyes were twinkling and she smothered a laugh at the look of consternation on Ezra’s face.
“You knew?” he demanded.
“Of course I did, dearest! I warrant I was aware of most of what you got up to, even if I very often let you think I was an oblivious grownup.”
Ezra groaned, thinking back on all the things he had gotten away with and wondering which ones Charlotte had indeed known about.
Charlotte giggled. “Don’t look so appalled; you were a mischievous and bright little boy. It wouldn’t have been normal for you not to have tried to test your limits. And sometimes, that meant I stepped back and let you fly or fall on your own.
“So which of my childhood transgressions were you aware of?” he asked curiously.
“Now that would be telling,” she said, looking thoroughly amused. “You shall just have to live with the mystery!” She patted his leg. “However, in the case of Mr. Beamish, let us just say I used the opportunity as a test, if you like. A test he failed miserably. You did me a great favour; I would not marry any man who could not love my children.”
He felt a wave of relief sweep over him at her assurances. “I am glad to have been of service, Charlotte.”
“And really, while he was very handsome, he was rather a bore. I shouldn’t have been able to abide being married to such a man. You know, he ended up marrying that dreadful Henrietta Wilkinson, for her fortune of course. I heard they made each other quite miserable.” She grinned wickedly. “A match made in heaven, I’m certain….”
San Luis Obispo, California ~ Present Day
“Now, Ezra, I was under the impression we’d resolved that erroneous belief of yours?”
He chuckled ruefully. “We did, but I will always feel some responsibility; though my gratitude far exceeds my guilt.”
“You always were a stubborn boy,” she said in fond exasperation.
“You do know what they say about glass houses, don’t you?” he drawled.
She sniffed. “Fine! Be that way.” Then she looked up at him. “Are we okay, Ezra?”
“Of course we are,” he assured her. “In fact, why don’t we all have dinner tonight at the saloon? Neutral ground; where Methos and I can prove to you that we can be out in polite company together.”
She snorted with laughter. “You do have high expectations, don’t you?”
“One must always have goals, cousin,” he informed her breezily.
“If you insist; but I’m hiding all the steak knives!”