Notes: A story in the 'Echoes the Sea/Aces Immortal' AU series. Set a week after strangevisitor7's story 'Each Must Know His Part', and many thanks to her as well for the beta.
Characters: Ezra Standish, Nathan Jackson, Vin Tanner, Cecily Black Desjardins
Summary: When Ezra yearns for a distraction, the unexpected arrival of his sister in Four Corners might be more than he bargained for.
'Silk and Firecrackers' ~ Part Two
“Ya look like Santa left coal in yer stocking, Nathan,” Vin observed as he drew even with the healer.
“Tarnation, wish you wouldn’t always be sneaking up on a man!” he protested, startled at the tracker’s unexpected appearance at his side.
Vin just chuckled, looking across the street to see what it was that had Nathan’s undivided attention. It appeared that the object of his scrutiny was a woman he’d never seen before in front of the hotel with Ezra. “Who’s that with Ez?”
Nathan snorted. "That is Ezra’s sister.”
“Cecily’s in town? Now there’s a surprise; Ez said she was travelin’ somewhere in China.” Vin smiled. “Her bein’ here’ll make Charlotte real happy.”
“You knew the man had a sister?” he demanded.
Nodding, he looked over at the now irate Nathan. “Charlotte and her ma were real good friends, and when her ma died, Charlotte took her in, raised Cecily as her own daughter. Her and Ez are round the same age and pretty much grew up together; he’s mighty proud of her. ‘Bout twelve years ago, Cecily went to art school in Paris, stayed when the war came. Ended up marryin’ a Frenchman, but her husband died a few years back,” he filled Nathan in with what he knew. “Ez and Cecily write to each other most weeks and he reads me parts of her letters from her travels sometimes.”
“He ain’t ever told me about her,” he said, sounding put out.
“Well now, Nathan, you tend to talk at Ezra, not to him. Can make it real hard to get close to someone, ya know.” There was no accusation in Vin’s words, just a simple observation.
Nathan shook his head, a half smile on his lips. “I s’pose you might have somethin’ of a point there, Vin.”
Slapping him on the shoulder companionably, Vin looked across the street to where Ez and his sister seemed to be having a very animated conversation. “Ezra tells me she’s a right firecracker.” Nathan laughed ruefully. “Take it you got your fingers singed there, Nate,” he said.
“Could say that,” he agreed. “Just can’t get over the fact she’s…,” he trailed off, studying the pair in front of the hotel.
“A mighty fine lookin’ woman,” Vin supplied with a wicked grin .
Looking over at him sharply, Nathan frowned, then he nodded, starting to chuckle. “Yep, she sure is at that.”
Silk and firecrackers, he thought to himself as Cecily laughed at something Ezra said. Mighty fine looking indeed.
“I let a room at the hotel when I arrived earlier to clean up after my journey,” Cecily explained to Ezra as they climbed the steps to the hotel's entrance. “I was hoping you could take me to Mama’s ranch today; at least I can be assured of civilized lodgings there. Why even Aunt Maude was forced to admit it is a very fine home. I honestly don’t believe I can abide spending the night in what passes for a hotel here.”
“Dear Lord, Cecily, I had forgotten just what a snob you are,” Ezra said, chuckling.
“Me? Why, Ezra Standish, in the dictionary there is a picture of you next to the word! Don’t try and tell me there is anything in this town that is to your exacting standards.”
Patting her hand, he said, “True enough, dear sister, nevertheless it is my home, and more importantly, the home of those I consider family. Just please try and remember that when you’re bandying about your opinions?”
“Oh very well; I promise I shall do my best to be tactful.” She sighed. “Really, Ezra, I can not understand why you and Mama choose to live in such a place. I’ve invited her to come live with me in Paris several times. I have lovely homes in the city and the country, and the children would be exposed to art and culture and receive the finest education. But she refuses to see reason.” She sounded quite vexed. “I only want to take care of her as she took care of me, is that so wrong?”
“No, of course not, but Charlotte is a very independent woman, like yourself,” he pointed out. “You must learn to accept how she leads her life as she has always accepted how we choose to live ours.”
“I suppose you’re right. But I do wish that she chose to do that somewhere civilized,” she said, wrinkling her nose.
Ezra laughed softly. “I assure you, we are not entirely lacking in charm.” But he didn’t receive the response he expected.
“Why I do believe you may be right,” she said with a look on her face that resembled a cat contemplating a bowl of cream. “Please do tell me you are acquainted with the very handsome gentleman who is approaching us.”
Perplexed, Ezra looked over his shoulder, uncertain as to whom Cecily would describe in such an approving manner. He was torn between astonishment and amusement when he realized just who the object of his sister’s interest was.
“Hey there, Ezra,” Vin called out as he walked up to them. “Ma’am.” He tipped his hat.
“Vin,” Ezra greeted his friend. “We were just talking about you.”
“Indeed it is.” A wide grin split his face. “I hadn’t realized you were back in town. How was Bitter Creek?” he asked conversationally, not able to resist the urge to needle his sister by not immediately introducing them.
“Was fine,” came the tracker’s succinct reply, his eyes darting to Cecily then back to Ezra again.
“Very glad to hear it,” he said merrily, noting the impatient look on Cecily’s face. “It can be such a tedious journey.”
“Ezra, where are your manners?” she asked, taking matters into her own hands. “Aren’t you going to introduce us?” She gave Vin a charming smile.
“What? Oh, yes, of course; how forgetful of me.” She poked him sharply in the ribs with her elbow, which only served to amplify his mirth. “Cecily, this is my good friend, Vin Tanner.”
She held out her right hand. “Charmed, I’m sure,” she said demurely, which almost sent Ezra into a fit of laughter. Cecily was many things, but demure was not one of them.
“And, Vin, may I present my sister, Cecily Desjardins.”
“Ma’am.” Vin took her hand, and Ezra wasn’t sure who was more surprised when his friend kissed it: him or Vin. Though considering the slightly stunned look in the other man’s face, he decided Vin was. Seeming to sense Ezra’s bemusement, Vin let go of her hand, suddenly shy. “Pleased t’meet ya,” he said, dropping his eyes.
“And I am delighted to make your acquaintance as well. Ezra has told me all about you in his letters. I am gratified my brother has such a fine friend here in this wild land.”
Vin looked startled. “Why thank you, ma’am; proud to have Ez here as a friend, and that’s a fact.”
“I do hope we’ll have a chance during my stay here to get to know one another better.”
Ezra chuckled to himself; as if Vin would have any say in the matter. Cecily always got what she wanted, and it would appear what she wanted was his friend. Normally, Vin tended to be oblivious to the attention that women paid him, but when it came to his sister, he’d have to be dead not to notice, she would make sure of it.
“Would like that fine, ma’am,” Vin agreed, his cheeks a bit pink at the attention.
It must be the hair, Ezra mused, or perhaps it was the blue eyes. It certainly couldn’t be his attire or sparkling conversation. He decided to help matters along. “That’s an excellent idea; the two of you having so much in common,” Ezra pointed out. “Cecily is a gifted painter, and Vin here is a fine poet.” He totally ignored the look in Vin’s eyes promising retribution for that revelation. “You should have a great deal to discuss.”
“Oh, that’s right! I do recall you mentioning in one of your letters that Mr. Tanner wrote poetry.” She touched Vin’s arm. “I had despaired of finding another artistic soul here. Ezra lacks a deeper appreciation for the arts,” she said airily.
“Yes,” Ezra drawled, “I am quite the Philistine.”
“Don’t concern yourself, dear. I am sure between myself and Mr. Tanner, we can expand your horizons,” she told him with mock sweetness.
“Of that, I have no doubt,” Ezra said, flashing a smile, gold tooth glinting in the sunlight.
Vin chuckled at the bantering between sister and brother. “You were right, pard; your sister really is a firecracker.” He had an evil glint in his eye.
Ezra glared; he hadn’t expected Vin to seek his revenge quite so soon.
“Firecracker? Ezra!” She smacked his arm. “I am outraged you would refer to me in such a manner!”
“Considering how easily outrage comes to you, darlin’ girl, that’s not saying very much,” he shot back.
“Ta be fair, ma’am,” Vin said, obviously enjoying himself, “Ez also told me you were one of the prettiest gals he’d ever seen, and I gotta agree, if you don’t mind me sayin’ so.”
Cecily fluttered her hand in front of her face. “Why I declare, you are the sweetest man, Mr. Tanner.”
The two of them looked at each other, smiling, and Ezra bit back laughter. It was obvious that Vin and Cecily were quite taken with one another, and nothing could please him more. Not to mention, he couldn’t wait to tell the others. He mentally rubbed his hands together in anticipation of much teasing to come. Cecily’s visit was going to be very entertaining, and just might end up being the distraction he’d been looking for.