Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: This fic follows my fic A New Monarch of the Glen, and will make a bit more sense if you have read that first, but that said it isn't strictly necessary. My thanks to Kerry for the speedy beta work.
Feedback: Oh yes please.
It had been a good evening. They had gathered, as they did every evening to eat, dining on poached salmon, caught by Vin only two hours before it was cooked, new potatoes lifted that day and peas, fresh from the pod. The salmon was followed by wild blueberry fool; the blueberries picked from the mountainside by JD himself. Normally the evening meal was used to talk over the day. But while they did that it was also a meal of celebration, JD and Buck's first week at Glenneaval and the end of mourning for the late Laird, JD's uncle, Angus Ross. The clan flag over the house was raised once more to full mast and the black wreath was removed from the front door. They drank wine and, when the meal was over, retired to the living room to talk and drink whisky. Much of the conversation revolved around memories of Angus. His mother, Angus' younger sister, had had a falling out with the family before JD was born and left for America with her boyfriend, a US serviceman. It turned out that Angus had been looking for her for some time, knowing he was dying and seeking a reconciliation. Too late he found her, dead, long since abandoned by the man she gave up everything for.
Those who had known him shared memories of the late clan chieftain, a man those who worked for him seemed to universally have liked, even loved. JD listened attentively, soaking up every story, prompting more detail, asking questions. His uncle had wanted to know him, but was denied the chance, now JD wanted to try to know him. Buck listened, sober. He hadn't drunk more than one glass of wine, too afraid he might let something slip. This man, this paragon of virtue might have sired him, but he wasn't his father, he had no father, never had had, never needed one. As the evening progressed he noticed that Ezra, Ross' own stepson, said very little.
By ten it was getting dark and Chris, Vin and Josiah decided to walk to their own homes on the estate while they could still see and were still capable of walking in a straight line. JD and Nathan eventually headed upstairs for their rooms, leaving only Buck and Ezra. Earlier in the day Buck had brought Ezra his proposal for a new access road to enable them to harvest a hillside of timber. Before dinner he and Buck went through the options with Chris in the living room. The papers still littered the coffee table and on top of the papers was Ezra's pen.
"Can I ask you something?"
Ezra didn't look up. "Sure."
"Was that the pen the old man left you?"
"Hun?" Ezra looked up over the rim of his glass. "Oh, yes."
"Could I?" Buck began to reach for it.
"Please, be my guest." With that Ezra went back to swirling the amber liquid in his crystal glass and watching the pattern it projected on the wall.
The pen was old; the body a deep blue marble effect, the clip, filler lever and nib all gold. It had a good weight and felt comfortable in his hand.
"Is it valuable?"
Ezra looked up again. "No, not really, maybe about twelve hundred."
That sounded valuable to Buck, but then he wasn't in Ezra's tax bracket. "Why did you want it?"
Ezra looked up again, he thought for a bit. "I didn't want it as such, I didn't ask for it. I don't even remember telling him I liked it, but he was a very observant man."
Buck sat back, still holding the pen. "How long had you known him?"
"Well, since mother first introduced us, just before they married." Nettie had favoured Buck with her opinion of Maude Standish-Ross. "Your expression is quite transparent, I see the redoubtable Miss Wells has shared her opinion of my mother with you."
Buck just gave him a rueful smile.
"I have to say on many points I probably agree with her. At first sight it didn't look like a match made in heaven, and it wasn't, but that doesn´t mean they hated each other." He settled back into his chair. "Mother is interested in only two things, money and status. Angus gave her status. She had money, but it was money that in her eyes was tainted."
Ezra waved his hand as if to dismiss the word. "Long story, not relevant. But she met Angus down in London and latched on to him. He was a fine looking man, even with that beard. Tall, well built, just the hint of a brogue. And very charming. Once she found out he was a genuine Scottish Laird with a huge estate - well that was it, she was going to have him. Once Mother sets her sights on something there is little or nothing that can stop her. Of course when she found out the estate was barely breaking even she wasn't so happy. That´s why I'm here, she called and asked me to come up here - just for the summer - and take a look at the books, try and get some kind of business plan together. That was six years ago."
"And you're still here," Buck finished.
"I'm still here, this place it effects you, it captures you. And him, he wasn't like the other stepfathers I had known. I mean I know I'm too old to be calling mother´s husbands 'father' but he was the closest to a real father I ever had."
"How many stepfathers have you had?" Buck asked, as an only child who had never known any father, of any kind, he was curious.
"My biological father was killed in a car crash before I was ever born, since then " He tilted his head back and thought a moment, then he began to count silently on his fingers. "Three while I was still at school, two since then, including Angus." He looked over at the tall ex solider. "Some times I forget you never knew him. I, along with Nettie and Josiah, are the only ones who knew him before "
"Before he got sick?"
"Yes. The first day I arrived he took hold of me by the shoulder and started to march me out of the door. 'So you are here to save us, well you´d better see what you are to save.' He announced, I'd hardly set foot in the place, my bags were still in the hallway. We got no more then two hundred yards and he stops and looks down at my feet. 'Well, those are no use.' He announced, I was wearing, as I recall, a particularly fine pair of Gucci loafers. So he turns us around and we march back to the house and into the gun room. Have you found the gun room?"
"Good, good, so in there is a big trunk, full of wellingtons. He spent a good deal of time finding me a pair that fitted. I was somewhat shell shocked, and just let him. Once I had boots we set out again. He took me to the top of Drum Maise, you know it?"
Buck did indeed; it was the self-same ridge he had taken JD to that first day. Where he had shown the young man the breadth of his land while they buried his uncle. From Drum Maise you could see a huge, breathtaking vista, of water, mountain and moorland.
"Yes I've been there."
"It's quite a sight, I'm sure you will agree. I think he and this place had me hooked from then on in."
"This was before he was ill?" Buck asked.
"Yes, some years before. Cancer is a pernicious thief, it takes life slowly, little by little it eats away at a man, people change. Well he changed, I can't say whether that is the same for everyone, but he changed. But then, when I first knew him he was so full of life, a free spirit. That´s why the estate was in the mess it was in, he just didn't have the interest in money to pay that side of things any attention. He'd become very environmentally aware; he and Josiah would take off for days at a time - bird watching. Drove Mother crazy. Don't get me wrong, when he was here and she was here it was a good marriage, he was very charming - I've said that already haven't I?"
"Damn, I'm more drunk than I think. Well anyway, he charmed her, he was a bit of a ladies man old Angus, paid her compliments, noticed her clothes, if she did her hair differently. I believe - and as a son I shouldn't say this but he knew what he was doing in the bedroom too, Mother took on a positive glow in the mornings while she was here." He raised an eyebrow in Buck's direction. "Now that I think of it, he was a lot like you." He giggled and took another sip of scotch.
Buck was surprised how much hearing that pleased him. His mother had told him repeatedly not to blame his father for not being part of his life. She explained that the man knew nothing of Buck's existence and his birth was her fault not his. She hadn't been a perfect mother, not by any means, but she made the best of the lot life handed her. Raised in a cramped council house on a 'war zone' estate, with a father who was violent and abusive, when he was there and not in prison. A mother with a drinking and gambling problem and three older brothers who treated her like a skivvy and were in and out of borstal and prison more then their father was. She started playing truant at twelve and had all but given up on school at fifteen. She did work, a variety of dead end jobs, cleaning, shelf stacking, shop assistant. The trouble was her family took most of what she earned, in the end she struck out on her own and that took more money than she could earn. After Buck was born she tried not to put out the red light, but sometimes there was just no other way to get the money they needed.
"But the cancer, it changed him, not much, not to start with, but the first sign we had was when their relationship changed," Ezra continued to explain.
"Him and Maude?"
"Yes, as far as I could tell he could no longer 'perform'. When he got the diagnosis she tried to be supportive but Mother doesn´t do 'sick'. I don't mean she can't cope with vomit - though she can't - she just can't deal with anyone who is unwell or injured in anyway. To her it's just an excuse to lay in bed, she thinks people do it to annoy her."
Buck had a sudden insight into what Ezra's childhood must have been like. His own mother, for all her failings, had always taken wonderful care of him when he was sick, making him feel totally loved and secure.
"So you can imagine her reaction to someone who is receiving cancer treatment. She tried for a full week, after he came home from the hospital."
"Was that when Nathan came here?"
"More or less. Angus was a proud man, he didn't want anyone who he knew; me, Chris, Vin, Josiah, Nettie, to see him when he was at his worst, when he was throwing up all the time and could hardly stand. But it became clear he couldn't look after himself. It took some persuading, but after his second fall he agreed to have a personal carer."
Buck nodded; he couldn't help feeling he would have had the same reaction.
"Even though he was confined to bed most of the time and if he wasn't he couldn't do much without a rest. But he was still the Laird, this is - was - his land, he wanted to be involved so he wrote me notes."
"With this pen?"
"With that pen. Not just me, Chris as well, even Vin on occasion. But mostly me. It was his father's, given to him by his father when he went away to school. He used to come down into the office sit in that big chair by the fire - you know the red leather one?" Buck nodded; he'd sat in that very chair, only that afternoon while Ezra read his proposal. "All wrapped up in layers and layers, he never seemed to be warm, and just talked while I worked. He'd have his pen and a notebook and make notes or just doodle. Most of the time he never showed me what he wrote."
"But you always liked the pen."
"It's beautiful - don't you think?"
"Form and function, you know? Like the Greeks, if a thing is well built, if it does its job it will be beautiful - like Concord. That pen is more than eighty years old, and it works as well now as the day it was made, fountain pens haven't basically changed because they work."
"And it's made with gold."
"That too. Besides it was his, and I liked him and well I miss him."
Buck looked over at the Ezra, and it was clear he more than 'missed' him, he had really cared for the old man. Even though he was more than a little drunk, and rapidly approaching the maudlin stage, his true feelings were so clear in his, admittedly slightly blurry, green eyes.
When nothing further was forthcoming, Buck decided to prompt him. "No, what?
"It's a shame you never met, you two would have got on like a house on fire." Ezra leaned forward and tried to put his now empty tumbler on the table, and missed. "Shit!" he hissed, picking it up off the sheepskin rug that had cushioned its fall. "I need to get some sleep." He looked over at Buck. "Why are you sober by the way?"
"Well I didn't see why Nathan should always have to be the sensible one," he lied smoothly.
"Yes, he does tend to take things a bit seriously sometimes. Mind you I hope he stays on; damn good at his job - running this place. You know we're open to the public again tomorrow?"
"Yes Ezra, I know, got you a quote to resurface the car park -remember?"
"So you did - good man - where was I?"
"Nathan, too serious."
"Oh yes. Well he runs the house " Buck was well aware what Nathan's job was, but he let Ezra ramble on. " keeps it all working, keeps Nettie happy - mind you if you want to make Nettie happy just bring her Vin with some scratch. There is nothing that woman loves more than a man to fuss over, and since Vin is her favourite - I have no idea why - and he hates being fussed over, you have to get him wounded first."
"Doesn´t Nathan take care of all the injuries?"
"Not if Nettie gets to Vin first! But yes he does, very useful it is too, with no doctor in the village, people have come to depend on him. Why were we talking about Nathan?"
"Because he's so serious and I stayed sober so he could relax?"
"You know I think you're lying, I think you don't want to lose control." Buck didn't respond. "He didn't like that either." He pushed himself up and swayed slightly as he stood there looking down at Buck. "I don't lose control."
"No." He wrinkled is nose and shock his head, which just made him sway more.
"Go to bed Ezra."
"Might just do that." He turned away and then began to work, taking a somewhat snake-like path toward the door. Then he turned back. "He would have liked you."
"Thanks." With that Ezra wandered off toward the stairs.
Buck looked down at the pen, still in his hand, gently, regretfully, he lay it back down on top of Ezra's papers, and reached for the decanter, pouring himself a good size drink. Swirling the liquid a few times, he raised it up. "Hello Angus, my name's Buck, I'm your son, and I've come home."