Notes: Sequel to Bound, a story in the 'Echoes the Sea/Aces Immortal' AU series, thanks to strangevisitor7 for the beta.
Characters: Ezra Standish, Maude Standish, Charlotte Sparrow.
Summary: Ezra and Maude come together while trying to help Charlotte find her way back to them after an accident.
San Francisco, 1924
Ezra slammed his fist into the wall outside the sitting room, the pain blossoming across his knuckles and up his arm as broken bones reformed and healed. He rested his head against the cool wood, exhausted and fast losing hope.
It had been two weeks since he had arrived in San Francisco at the behest of his mother. Two horrible, desperate weeks that had been a waking nightmare for the young Immortal. Charlotte, who had been like a second mother to him, his mentor and his teacher, had suffered grievous mental harm after being trapped underwater for weeks; dying and reviving over and over again. By the time she had broken free, and found her way to Maude’s doorstep, little of the woman Ezra had always thought indestructible was left.
Hands now rested on his shoulders, attempting to comfort him. “I am so sorry, Ezra,” his mother said sincerely. Though Ezra and Maude had been estranged for many decades, they had been slowly working their way back towards each other over the last few years. This tragedy had drawn them closer than they had been since Ezra was mortal. He laughed bitterly to himself; how pleased Charlotte would have been at that turn of events. She had never given up on mother and son reconciling.
“I can’t bear to see her this way,” Ezra whispered. “All these years, from the time I was a child, to adulthood, and then immortality, the one thing I always could count on was that she’d be there for me, no matter how many years passed.” He knew his words would not hurt his mother; that she felt the same way. If Charlotte had been a mother to Ezra, she had been a sister to Maude. The three of them were as much a family as any mortal one that was bound by blood.
“My darlin’ boy, you were the one that told me not to lose hope, and now I’m telling you; you must not give up, Ezra. Not just for her sake, but for yours as well.” Maude pulled him around. “Charlotte has nearly two centuries of both grief and joy behind her. Surely she needs more time to deal with what has happened,” she said sensibly.
He shook his head. “Perhaps,” he admitted. “I fear that I may be unintentionally damaging her further her by being here.” He began to pace. “What if my presence only serves to bring back memories that cause more pain?”
“Nonsense,” she said briskly. “She eats for you; she would not for me. And her eyes are more aware when you speak to her.”
Nodding, Ezra looked down into Maude’s clear blue eyes. “You need to rest, Mother. I’ll go back to her.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I am.”
Charlotte couldn’t be left alone long or she would wander away, as if she were looking for something – or someone. They couldn’t risk her leaving the house; incapable of defending herself, she’d be an easy target for any Immortal she might encounter. Unable to bear the thought of restraining her, Ezra and Maude had taken to keeping her in sight at all times. She slept with Maude, when she slept, and Ezra stayed with her during the day.
“Get some sleep, Mother,” he urged, giving her a little push.
“I will admit, a nap would be quite welcome.” She smiled up at him tiredly, squeezing his arm before making her way up the stairs
Ezra paused in the doorway, studying his cousin. She was sitting in a chair, looking out the window into the front garden that was drenched with fog. He wished he knew what she saw there, if even she saw anything at all. He often found her staring out a window, seemingly entranced. Was she somewhere in her past, he wondered, waiting for someone to come home? Or was she trying to make her way back, unable to find the path?
“Cousin,” he called gently. “I was thinking that if the fog lifts this evening, we might go outside and look for the North Star. Do you remember teaching me how to find it when I was a boy? You told me that it would always bring you back home to me. I need you to come home to us, Charlotte; just as you promised.”
She turned towards him at the sound of his voice, but he wasn’t sure if he was merely deceiving himself at what he thought was a flash of recognition her eyes. Praying she would respond, he held out his hand. “Would you like me to read to you?”
At first, she didn’t react, but then she stood slowly, taking his hand and letting him lead her to the chesterfield. Sitting her down, he put a mohair blanket over her lap, tucking it around her legs. “I thought I might read Jane Eyre; I know it’s a favourite of yours.” Ezra had given her a copy of it as a present on the Christmas he’d been ten. He was doing his best to recall memories from a time before she’d lost her children to old age, before she’d held her dying husband, bleeding in her arms; a time when life had seemed simpler, without recurring tragedy. Sitting next to her, he picked up the book and began to read.
After a short while, Charlotte reached out, her hand taking his free one, and Ezra’s heart soared. Maybe Maude had been right after all. He kept reading, turning the pages one-handed, his eyes darting over the book to observe her. A few more minutes passed and she drew closer, pressing herself against him, her head coming to rest against his chest. Placing an arm around her, he held her close and felt her relax against him. And still, he continued to read. Then he heard her sigh, and her breathing took on the rhythm of sleep. He set the book down next to him, gently running a hand through her close-cropped black hair, leaning down to kiss her forehead. She didn’t stir, and for the first time in two weeks, he saw a look of peace on her face.
Closing his eyes, Ezra wept silent tears.