Notes: In 'I Am Going To The West' there is a reference to an event that took place after Jemma died that Charlotte isn't prepared to talk about. This deals with the aftermath of that incident. A story in the 'Echoes the Sea/Aces Immortal' AU series.
Characters: Ezra Standish, Maude Standish
Summary: When tragedy strikes, Ezra reminds Maude that family looks out for each other.
San Francisco, 1924
“Where is she, Mother?” Ezra demanded, the maid taking his overcoat and hat as he strode into the sitting room, before she left mother and son alone, closing the door behind her.
“In the sunroom.” Maude kissed him on the cheek. “Ezra, wait!” she said, halting him when he would have immediately sought out his cousin. “There are things you need to know, to be prepared for, before you see her. Please.” She waved him towards the sofa.
It was the uncharacteristic concern in his mother’s voice that made Ezra comply. That, and the look she had in her eyes; it was fear, he realized with a chill. He sat down, accepting the drink she pressed into his hands.
“What exactly happened?” he asked. Maude’s telegram had been urgent, but lacking in details. He had been in Chicago when he’d received the news that some sort of accident had befallen Charlotte and that he was needed in San Francisco as soon as possible. With Charlotte being Immortal, he knew that whatever the situation was, it had to be dire.
“I’m not sure of everything that transpired, only that Charlotte was trapped underwater for weeks, perhaps longer, before she somehow managed to free herself. How she ended up there, I have no idea.”
He shuddered and drained the scotch in a single burning swallow. It was every Immortal’s nightmare; to be trapped, dying and reviving over and over again. He set the empty glass on the table next to him. “What else?” There was something Maude wasn’t telling him.
She shook her head. “You need to prepare yourself, Ezra. She isn’t the Charlotte you remember.”
“What do you mean?” He sprang to his feet. “Damn it, just tell me!”
“I believe her mind is broken,” she said quietly, flinching a little at the look of outrage on his face at her statement. “Ezra, you weren’t here when I found her on my doorstep; I didn’t even recognize her. Charlotte’s hair,” Maude’s voice shook a little, “her beautiful hair, Ezra. In the end, I had no choice but to cut it all off. She was nothing but skin and bones; she still is, I can’t get her eat. She rambled a bit when she first got here, while I was cleaning her up, enough for me to piece some of what happened together, but she hasn’t spoken a word since.”
He rubbed his face, not believing that it could be this bad. “Charlotte’s strong, Mother. I refuse to believe the situation is hopeless.”
“I surely hope you’re correct, darlin’, God knows I do. But even the strongest have a breaking point. And it’s more than this incident, I’m sure of it. She’s lost so much these last three years.“
“I should have been there for her,” Ezra said sadly. “I was too wrapped up on my own grief to realize how devastated she must have been.”
“Stop it, Ezra!” Maude commanded. “You know very well Charlotte would never want to you to blame yourself.”
“That’s just the point, isn’t it?” he asked angrily. “She got me through Penny’s death, arranged the funeral when I was unable to, gave me her strength when all I wanted was to crawl into a bottle.”
“She was your wife, Ezra,” Maude said with rare gentleness.
He waved away her attempt to comfort him. “And she was Charlotte’s daughter! Who was there for her? And then I left her alone to take care of Patrick, grieving over the loss of his twin; left her alone to deal with his death only a few months later. And then she lost Timothy and Jemma within a year of each other. I should have been there for her, Mother.”
“We both should have,” she said simply. “But we can’t change what’s past, Ezra.”
Hanging his head, he closed his eyes and sighed. “I know.”
“I am at a loss, Ezra,” she admitted. “I don’t know how to help her now that she’s the one who needs me. Charlotte’s trapped in some dark place where I can’t reach her. She was always the one that took care of me. When she found me in that alley, after what that man did to me….” She closed her eyes, unable to continue.
Ezra gathered her into his arms. Maude had never spoken of her First Death to him, although he was aware of the circumstances. What had happened that night in New Orleans, more than a century before, had inextricably bound the two women together; a bond that had come to include Ezra after Maude had adopted him twenty-five years later.
“Charlotte knew you would take care of her,” Ezra pointed out softly. “How else would she have found her way to your side, considering her mental state? She trusts you, Mother; maybe you will believe that now.”
She hugged him before stepping away. “I have no idea why. God only knows I’ve not given her much cause to over the years.”
“Because when the chips are down, you can count on your family,” Ezra said firmly. “Isn’t that what she always tells us?”
“What are we going to do, Ezra?”
“We are going to give her our strength till she has her own back. No matter how long it takes. Charlotte has always been there for me and for you, and she has never given up on either of us; now it’s our turn.”
The Sequel: Always