Title: Child Of My Heart
Universe: Highlander/Mag7 Crossover; Old West
Characters: HL: OFC Charlotte Sparrow (AKA Pearl Black); Mag7: Maude and Ezra Standish. The rest of the boys show up in the later chapters.
Summary: Charlotte Sparrow receives a visit from her former student Maude Standish who has a small boy in tow. (Yes, I made Maude an Immortal)
A/N: Charlotte is an Immortal and an original character created by ithildyn. In Charlotte's bio, Ith mentioned that she'd lived in New Mexico in the 1860's, so it was obvious to me she knew the Mag7 boys. I have added the idea that she was Maude Standish's teacher, longtime friend and one of those people Maude would occasionally 'dump' Ezra with.
Child of My Heart, Chapter 1
Richmond, Virginia – 1843
"Will that be all, Miss Charlotte?" Olivia asked as she as she set the tea service down on the low table in front of the settee.
"Yes, thank you, Livy. I'll pour for myself," Charlotte replied.
The housekeeper nodded and disappeared through the swinging door that led to the kitchen.
She set her book aside and reached for the tea pot. Charlotte stilled as the buzz of another Immortal entered her awareness followed by ringing of the front bell of the townhouse. She wasn't expecting any visitors and stared at the door, willing it to divulge the identity of the Immortal on the other side.
Olivia had returned from the kitchen and was approaching the door.
"I'll get it," Charlotte said, waving the housekeeper back to her duties.
"Yes, Miss Charlotte," Olivia said and disappeared once more.
Rising from the settee, Charlotte calmly ran a hand across her thick black hair, coaxing a few wayward strands back into the bun knotted at the nape of her neck, before making her way over to the wooden cabinet where she kept her sword.
Cautiously, she approached the door. "Who is it?" Her cheerful tone was at odds with the butterflies in her stomach.
"It's me, Charlotte. Please open the door."
Charlotte let out the breath she was holding as she recognized the heavy southern accent. "Maude?" she asked, just to be sure.
"You know it is, my dear cousin."
Charlotte smiled at the endearment. Maude had been her first and only student and they'd spent many years together when Charlotte had first found the new Immortal. But when Maude insisted on maintaining the nomadic life of the confidence artist that she'd mastered before her first death twenty years before, Charlotte had bid her farewell. It had been almost five years since the last time Maude had breezed into her rather settled life, though they did exchange regular correspondence. Charlotte found she missed the Immortal woman that she'd come to think of as family.
While she was certain Maude was not here to challenge her, there was no profit in that, Charlotte was not so careless as to set her sword aside.
She opened the door and Maude entered with a flourish, setting a small valise by the entrance. "Charlotte, darling," she cried as she embraced her, quickly kissing both cheeks. Maude glanced at the sword as she removed her gloves. "Really, my dear, put that dreadful thing away."
Charlotte leaned the sword against the wall and reached to close the door. It met some resistance as a small figure scooted inside, startling her. She looked from the young auburn haired boy to Maude and waited for an explanation.
"Didn't I tell you?" Maude inquired innocently.
"That you've kidnapped a child? No, I don't recall reading that in your last letter," Charlotte teased.
Maude tried to look indignant at the accusation and failed. "I've adopted a son." She gestured for the boy and he came obediently to stand next to her. "Ezra, say hello to your cousin, Charlotte."
Beautiful green eyes looked up at her. "Hello, Cousin Charlotte," he said. "I'm Ezra." His voice had the same southern lilt to it that Maude chose to affect. Charlotte had never been sure if that was her real accent or just another of her many facades.
She wanted to quiz Maude about what she was thinking, the woman didn't have a maternal bone in her body, but that would have to wait until the boy was elsewhere.
"Very nice to meet you, Ezra," she said as she knelt down to greet him and stilled.
"He will be," Maude answered her unspoken question.
"No, Maude!" Charlotte snapped, looking up at her friend. "You can't be serious." The child was a pre-immortal. What ever Maude had planned for him, Charlotte knew she wouldn't like it.
"Did I do something wrong?" Ezra asked.
Charlotte mentally kicked herself. The child had sensed her displeasure with Maude and thought she was upset with him.
"No, my dear child, of course not," she said as she folded him into a hug. "Your mother and I have some things we need to discuss, that's all."
The boy stiffened and then relaxed into the embrace. When she released him he had a huge smile on his face that revealed two sets of dimples. Charlotte couldn't help but smile back.
"How old are you, Ezra?" she asked.
"Five," he said, holding up one hand to emphasize his answer.
"That is a very fine age," she said. "Are you hungry?"
He nodded, flopping long bangs into his eyes.
"Well then, let's find you something to eat," Charlotte said as she rose and clasped Ezra's hand. She indicated to Maude that she should have a seat as she led the boy into the kitchen.
Charlotte called for her housekeeper, instructing Olivia to keep an eye on the boy while she visited with her cousin. Once Ezra was settled with a sandwich and a glass of milk, Charlotte returned to the drawing room.
Sitting down across from her guest, Charlotte glared at Maude, who still had a smile of contentment plastered on her face. "What's going on, Maude? You always told me how much you disliked children."
"True, but Ezra is special," Maude insisted.
"I realize that, but you can't be serious about raising him," Charlotte said.
"It hasn't been hard. He's a very bright boy."
Charlotte's eyes narrowed. "How long have you had him?"
"More than two years now. It's amazing how sympathetic the marks are to a widow with a small child."
"Two years! You've been using that innocent child to ensnare victims for two years?"
"Don't act so indignant, Charlotte, you used to be so much fun. Besides the boy's a natural," Maude explained proudly.
Charlotte sighed. She'd been friends with Maude long enough to know that once the woman made up her mind there was no changing it. No matter what protests Charlotte might put forth, Maude was going to raise this boy as a partner in the confidence game.
"So why bring him here now?" Charlotte asked.
"I have some business to attend to and I thought, as a favor to me, you might watch Ezra for a few weeks."
"Business? You mean a con," she shot back.
"Well of course, darling, but must you be so crude about it?" Maude chastised her. "We can't all be respectable businesswomen."
Charlotte ignored the slight. She'd been in the shipping business for decades and in her current incarnation since 1835. She enjoyed the quiet life of a respectable widow in Richmond. It was one of the reasons Maude never visited for long; she could only take the quiet, respectable life for so long.
"I don't know, Maude. I'm not in a position to look after a small boy." It was a weak argument. Charlotte had already decided she would watch Ezra. After all, they were family now. Plus, she never could say no to Maude, but she wasn't going to make it easy on the confidence woman.
"Of course you are, darling. This is a big house and you have servants. You will hardly know he's here," Maude insisted. She leaned forward conspiratorially, "Besides I know how much you love children."
And there it was, the real reason Charlotte would never say no. She loved children and had even adopted one of her own. Charles was a grown man now, with his own life and at thirty, older than the twenty eight years that Charlotte had achieved during her mortal lifetime.
"Why can't you take him with you?"
"There's this wonderful man I've met but he is not overly fond of children. Ezra would simply be a detriment to my plans."
"And he's rich and completely taken with you," Charlotte finished with a smile. Maude was a handsome woman. When they'd first met, she had been amazed at Maude's ability to get men to do just about anything for her. Charlotte had always been too independent to play that kind of game. She'd much rather do things for herself rather than charm a man into doing it for her. Another way she differed from her student.
Maude smiled in return. "I knew you would understand." Maude stood. "I will return as soon as I can."
"You're leaving now?"
"Why of course. Now, you take care of my darlin' boy," she said as she held out her arms for a final hug.
"Don't you want to say goodbye to Ezra?" Charlotte asked as she embraced Maude and stepped back.
Maude waved a hand in the direction of the kitchen. "I've left him with friends before. He understands that his mother has business to attend to, and I do hate long goodbyes." She pulled on her gloves and waited for Charlotte to see her to the door.
"You've left him before? With whom?"
"No one you know, darling. Don't you worry about it; Ezra can take care of himself."
"He's five, Maude!" Exasperated Charlotte came to a decision. Having been Maude's teacher didn't automatically make Charlotte responsible for the things that Maude did but like any "parent" she couldn't help herself. She'd been unable to move Maude onto the path of honesty but she could make sure there was as little destruction in her wake as possible.
"Promise me that you will always bring him here if you need to leave him somewhere."
"Really, Charlotte, this isn't necessarily the most convenient location."
Charlotte stepped closer to her. "Promise me, Maude, or you can take him with you right now." It was a bluff and she suspected Maude knew it, but for some reason the younger Immortal agreed.
"All right, dear cousin, I will always bring him here. I promise."
A promise from Maude wasn't necessarily binding, but it would do for now. She led her former student to the door.
Maude reached for the valise that she'd left by the door. "These are Ezra's things," she said as she handed the case to Charlotte.
The suitcase felt half empty and Charlotte assumed that the boy had few personal items. It wouldn't dawn on Maude to spend any real money on Ezra. Inwardly sighing, she knew that a shopping trip was now on her agenda for the day.
"Take care of yourself, Maude," Charlotte said sincerely.
"I always do my dear," she replied and was gone.