San Luis Obispo, California ~ Spring 2008
"If you want my advice, I'd steal Carrie Williams away from Seacrest Vineyards," Charlotte told Duncan MacLeod. "She's an assistant winemaker there; young, but with a lot of promise. As your winemaker, she can bring your label an edge."
"Do you think she's up to the challenge?" Duncan asked as he refilled Charlotte and Methos' wine glasses.
"Absolutely! This winery has so much potential, and Carrie can help you realize it." She took a sip from her glass. "I almost bought the place back myself."
"You used to own it?" Methos asked curiously.
"I did. It was part of my landholdings once; I sold it just before Prohibition."
"Why didn't you buy it back?" Duncan asked.
The woman looked down at the table, some old sorrow in her eyes. "There was a lot going on in my life when the winery came up for sale in February. You snatched it out from under me."
"I'm sorry." Duncan sounded apologetic.
"Don't be!" She looked up, smiling, the pensive mood of before disappearing. "It's good land," she said with obvious fondness. "I think you'll be very happy here, Duncan. This is a place where even one of us can grow roots."
"I think I'd like a few roots," Duncan admitted. "It feels like home already."
The three Immortals, having finished the lunch Duncan had made, had spent the last hour talking about Duncan's plans for the winery that he'd just purchased. An easy sense of camaraderie had settled over them, and for that, he was grateful. It wasn't always easy to strike up friendships between their kind.
Charlotte, who owned a neighbouring winery, had freely given of her experience and local knowledge. Duncan, being the soul of politeness, had resisted trying to assuage his curiosity on just how Methos and Charlotte Sparrow knew each other. But he would have had to be blind not to notice the little glances, the small smiles, and the brush of fingertips, over the course of their meal. About the only thing he'd been able to gather was that Charlotte knew him as Methos and that it had been some years since the two had last been together.
It was at times like this that Duncan realized just how much of a mystery his friend still was. And somehow, he knew Methos wouldn't be whinging about the boonies of San Luis Obispo now he'd been reunited with Charlotte.
"So this is where you came to," Methos said softly, not looking at her.
"It is," she replied just as softly. Her eyes seemed fixed on her wineglass.
Methos put his hand over hers on the table. "I came back, but you were already gone." It wasn't an apology, but it was something of a plea.
Finally, she looked at him, her face soft with memories and sadness. "I know you did, dearest Benjamin."
He nodded as she touched his cheek with a fingertip. "I've missed you, Charlotte."
"As have I."
Duncan cleared his throat, finally asking the burning question, "So how long has it been since you two have seen each other?"
Methos smiled. "Too long…."
Doña Ana, New Mexico Territory ~ Autumn, 1866
Methos left his horse drinking at the trough, looking around the main street as he slung his saddlebags over his shoulder. It felt like he'd been riding for weeks without a break, and he was thinking that maybe it was time to stay put for a while. This seemed as likely a place as any.
"New in town?" a voice asked from behind him.
Methos turned slowly, putting on his best non-threatening look -- at least for now. "Just arrived," he agreed.
The town's sheriff looked him over, and then nodded, seeming to come to a decision. "Planning on settling here or just passing through?"
"Thinking of stopping for a while; it's a beautiful piece of country."
"That it is. Hank Jenkins," the short, stocky man introduced himself, sticking out a weathered hand.
Taking the hand, Methos shook it firmly. "Matthew Adamson."
"Where you coming from?"
"Never have been that far north," Sheriff Jenkins admitted. "What brings you to New Mexico?"
"I was looking for warmer winters," Methos told him with a grin.
Jenkins laughed. "Can't blame a man for that." Then he said, "You must be thirsty. Let me buy you a drink at the cantina."
"I'd be obliged."
A few minutes later, the two men had settled themselves at a table. Soon they were sharing a bottle of tequila, the fiery liquid burning a trail down Methos' throat into his gut. Yes, this place might do nicely.
"You'll be looking for work."
Methos nodded. "Know of any?"
"I might do." He took a slug from his glass. "You any good with horses? Cattle?"
"That might work," he said mostly to himself. Then he turned his attention back to the newcomer. "The Widow Black has a place a few miles west of town. Good sized spread. She runs cattle and breeds horses."
"Is she looking for a hand?"
Jenkins chuckled. "Not exactly." At Methos' look of inquiry, he explained, "She's a stubborn one; runs the place with just her and a passel of young ones."
"And you don't approve?" Methos asked dryly.
He looked surprised at that. "What? No, I admire the woman, but she hasn't the sense God gave her some days! Ran off the last hands she hired and the ones before that decided they didn't want to work that hard," he explained. "A lot of men think a widow with kids will be an easy touch; the first thing they're thinking is how to get her land from her. But Pearl's nobody's fool."
"So it would seem," he agreed.
"She has a cousin over in Four Corners - town about an hour north of her ranch - who checks in on her, but I doubt that young man has ever put in an honest day's work in his life," he said somewhat disapprovingly. "What she needs is a full time ranch hand, more than one, truth be told. But you have to start somewhere." The sigh he let out was part exasperation, part resignation.
Methos chuckled at the sheriff's obvious frustration with Mrs. Black.
"The thing is, her oldest girl Jemma is marrying my boy Jeremy in the spring, so Pearl's practically family. It's my place to look out for her." Whether she likes it or not wasn't verbalized, but it was as plain as if he'd spoken the words.
"Fair enough. But what makes you think I'm any more trustworthy than the previous holders of the post?"
"I'm a good judge of men, Mr. Adamson. You're not a drifter; your horse and gear are too fine. You carry yourself like a man who has made something of himself."
Methos threw back the rest of the tequila in his glass, considering. He did need work if he was going to settle in for the foreseeable future, and being a ranch hand to a widow wasn't a bad situation. "I'll admit, Sheriff Jenkins, I am intrigued."
"I hoped you would be," he replied, obviously relieved. "But be forewarned, she might be a bit tetchy you showing up. Pearl'll take some sweet talking to take you on."
"Have no fear, Sheriff, sweet talking is my specialty!" Methos poured more tequila into their glasses and the two men toasted to stubborn women and warmer winters.
charlotte sparrow, duncan macleod, ezra standish, fic, fic: highlander, fic: magnificent seven, fic: xover/au, methos, series: 'aces immortal', series: 'echoes the sea'