01: How bad could it be? Move to the west coast, away from mom – now that was a double plus right there – out from under the burn notice, and play babysitter. Sweet.
"You have yourself a deal, Agent Coulson." He extended a hand which the other man shook.
"Good to have you on board, Mr. Westen."
Michael put on his sunglasses. "Just one thing; I don't do the suit. Black isn't my colour."
02: “What’s with the look?” Tony asked suspiciously.
“What look? Don’t know what you mean!” she protested, all innocence, as Happy started the Rolls. “Love you, Tony.” She waved as the car slowly began to make its way down the sweeping drive.
“Yeah, me too.” Eyes widening as if he’d just realized something, he took out his cell, hitting the speed dial. Strains of Turn On Your Heart Light could be heard accompanied by peals of delighted feminine laughter as the car pulled out of the gate.
03:Then Methos took her hand, drawing her down to sit next to him on the settee. "Believe me when I tell you that there are many wonders awaiting you, Charlotte. This life we have been given can truly be a gift, if only you allow it to be."
"I want to believe that, Benjamin. But perhaps you can remind me every so often ‘til I do?" There was a touch of fear in her voice.
"Every day for as many years as it might take," he promised.
"Angele Dei, qui custos es mei*," she whispered, her eyes shining with her faith in him.
And at that moment, as the first rays of the morning sun slid through the window, Methos almost believed it himself.
04: He puts it all in a letter, a letter he gives to Happy to deliver to her house. All the access codes have been changed; his new security team under strict instructions to not let Pepper Potts anywhere near him or Stark Industries. Tony will never see Pepper again. He owes her that much for what he’s cost her. He will give up the woman he loves so he won’t have to stand at her grave. That is the price for those four words, those four words that he hates.
‘I am Iron Man’
05: “Sweetheart, I am all about Animal Style,” he half growled, leering down at her.
Giggling, Charlotte took both Tony’s hands in hers. “Then what are we waiting for?”
“You’re paying, right? Oww!!”
06: Tilting her head, she pursed her lips, then asked, “Your inner angst looks like an office supply room explosion?”
“You have no soul, Potts.”
“Oh, I do, Mr. Stark, but it doesn’t normally reside at Office Depot.”
“You’re very funny. Ever considered a career in stand up?”
“All the time,” she replied, trying very hard not to laugh. “Will that be all, Mr. Stark?”
“That will be all, Miss Potts.” He turned back to his creation. “Maybe if I added some jumbo clips….”
07: "He gets pie?" Ezra sounded decidedly put out.
"Yeah, but you get the redhead," Tony reminded him with a smirk.
Ezra ignored him. "There will be some left over, won’t there?"
"Pie or redhead?" Charlotte snickered at the pained look on Ezra's face. "Have fun," she said, leading Tony away and leaving Ezra to the devices of his admirer.
“As for you—" she put her hand in the crook of Tony's arm "—you can assure me that photo is not going in your front office."
"I don’t know. Depends on how good that pie is, Birdie," he told her as they left the room, squeezing her hand.
"I have full confidence that it will meet with your approval. And then you can tell me about your trip to Afghanistan next week and your shiny new Jericho system. I want to hear all about it!"
08: He still looked suspicious, searching her eyes. “I have no desire for you to be my rescuer, Charlotte,” he said firmly. “I am no longer a child to be protected.”
She waved away his protest. “We are family, Ezra, and family looks out for each other. So I suggest you reconcile yourself to that.”
Laughing softly, he took her hand. “Yes, ma’am.”
“That’s better. Now, I believe you were buying me a drink?”
09: He smiled then, his gold tooth glinting in the candlelight, his dimples just as fetching as they were when he was a boy. “I think we can trust mother not to fleece your guests – at least for a few hours,” he opined with a wicked gleam in his eyes.
She rolled her eyes. Maude had made a habit these last few years of showing up ‘unexpectedly’ over the holidays. It had become something of a private joke between Charlotte and Ezra. They’d even placed bets on it upon occasion.
“One can only hope,” she said wryly.
Standing, Ezra offered her his hand, helping her to her feet. “Shall we, madam?”
“Let’s,” she replied, putting her hand in the crook of his elbow. “And just maybe, if you’re good, we can make snow angels when we come home!”
“Promise?” he asked with grin.
“Merry Christmas, Charlotte.”
"Merry Christmas, dearest.”
10: Standing, he took her hands again, drawing her to her feet. "But first, I believe we have a lesson to finish?" he drawled. "I shall endeava’ to at least keep my sword in hand this time."
Walking past him, she laughed merrily. "It is always good to have hope, Ezra."
"You may laugh, cousin, but I am quite determined in this." He leaned casually against a support post, smiling smugly.
"Is that so?" Her eyes took on a wicked gleam that made him slightly nervous. "Then perhaps you might care to place a small wager...?"
11: She grinned. “It would be worth it just for Ezra’s reaction.”
“How’s that?” he asked curiously.
“Ezra disapproves of me frequenting ’such base establishments’,” she explained, her eyes dancing as she did a spot on impression of the young southerner. “It will be mere moments from the time he discovers me in the saloon till he suggests that ’we remove ourselves to a venue more suitable for a lady’.”
Chris laughed explosively, slapping his thigh. “This, I gotta see!”
“Then lead on, my dear Mr. Larabee, lead on!”
12: Ezra started dealing cards, complaining all the while that Charlotte would play cards with the other men, but never played with him, and Buck and Vin were teasing him about it. JD was on the floor, trying to retrieve his hat after Buck had knocked it off the table, loudly protesting his friend’s behavior. Charlotte just shook her head in amusement at all the hubbub, picking up the cards she’d been dealt. Then she looked at Chris, as if feeling his eyes on her, and smiled up at him.
Leaning in, he said softly, "It's good to belong somewhere."
Nodding, she replied, "Thank you for reminding me of that."
"I forgot that myself for a real long time; just passin it on."
"And I am very much obliged."
Chris grinned. "Anything for a lady."
13: Charlotte began to giggle. “Does Pepper think I’ve recently acquired some sort of superpower?”
“Cute, Birdie, cute,” Tony said witheringly. “It’s not that funny!” He shot Ezra a glare, the other man wiping a tear of mirth from his eye.
“Yes, actually, Tony love, it is,” she said, catching her breath. She took his arm. “Now, don’t pout. Didn’t you say we had a jet to catch?”
As the group made their way back to the party, she asked, “Just where are we going anyway?”
Tony snagged a glass of champagne from a passing waiter, handing it to her. “Oh, didn’t we mention that? Bali; you’re going to love it!”
14: He pinned Ezra with his gaze. “So tell me again that she doesn’t know what’s in your heart.”
Ezra hung his head. “I am a fool.”
Methos laughed. “Finally, something we agree on.”
He smiled a little at that. “I need to apologize,” he said, standing.
“You have the trust and respect of one of the finest women that it has ever been my pleasure to know. It’s about time you appreciate that fact.”
“I will not forget again.”
15: 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.”
16: She shook her head, angrily pushing past him. "This conversation is over!"
"Not quite yet," he contradicted, taking hold of her upper arm, stopping her. "You told me that you loved me as if I were a child of your own body. Was that a lie?"
"Of course not!"
"Then don't you think Chris is just as capable of loving children who are not his?"
Shoulders slumping, she stopped trying to free herself from his grasp, instead leaning against him wearily. "It's not that easy," she whispered brokenly. “I don’t know if I can bear to lose anyone else I love. It is so hard, watching as they slip away from you in what seems like the blink of an eye, Ezra, so very hard.”
"I know." He put his arms around her, holding her close. "I know."
"Yes?" He looked over at her.
"You and Charlotte will keep watch over our children and grandchildren and their children as the years pass, won't you?"
"I promise you, we shall."
"I like to think that one day, many years from now, you'll show Paris to my great-granddaughter, and the two of you shall fall in love, and for a little while, you won't be alone." She gripped his hand tightly as if trying to hold on to this moment in time.
His heart clenched a little, the reality of his immortality like a knife to the heart. Taking a shaky breath, he drew her close. "I would like that."
The scent of Cecily's perfume, the laughter of her children, and the feel of the spring breeze against his skin coalesced into a memory he knew he would hold close to his heart forever.
18: “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.
19: 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.”
20: 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.