Disclaimer: This is for fun, no money is made. The boys are not mine but they live in my heart.
Thanks to my betas Ronnie, who encouraged me a lot and helped me with my English (without you I wouldn't have written an English story at all) and Evelin (Juanita) for her helpful remarks.
Remaining mistakes are mine.
Murdoch Lancer walked along the hallway towards his room and stopped at the door of his son’s bedroom. “His son’s bedroom“. This still sounded strange to him. There was light shining from under the door onto the floor of the hallway. Was he still awake?
Scott had retired early to his room this first evening at Lancer. The young man had looked worn out and exhausted. He surely had to be tired after his long journey from Boston by train, culminating in the bone wracking trip on the stage coach for the last couple of days. Not to speak of the fire on the range they had to fight soon after his boys' arrival. So Scott had excused himself directly after dinner and bid the family good night.
But there was still light in his room. Murdoch hesitated. Should he knock and ask if he was okay? But his boy was a grown man - he didn’t need anyone to look after him. And the last one he needed was his father…………
Murdochs hand seemed to move without his will and knocked at Scott’s door . There was no reply. Again the hand seemed to move by itself and softly turned the doorknob. Murdoch was in Scott’s room before he could stop himself.
The lamp on the nighstand was lit. Scott was half sitting, half lying on the bed, his head resting against the headboard, slightly tilted to the left, and his eyes were closed.
“Scott?” Murdoch whispered.
Scott didn’t stir; he seemed to be sound asleep, due to the slow, even rhythm of his breathing. He still was fully dressed and obviously had been reading before he fell asleep. There lay an open book in his lap, halfway slipping from his limp hands.
Murdoch stood, not able to move. What was he doing here? He hadn’d been invited to come in, he felt like he was trespassing. The man in the bed was a stranger to him, hadn’t he himself stated this hours ago? So why had he come in here?
But yet this young man was his son and he couldn’t help but feel close to him. This was Catherine’s boy and his.
As if something was drawing him towards the still form he silently stepped forward and stopped near the bed. He regarded the sleeping man curiously, realizing that he hadn’t dared to look at either of his sons more closely during this first afternoon. He had been eager to maintain his gruff and aloof stance to hide the unexpected emotions he was feeling.
Ashamed he became aware of the awkwardness of the situation. He was the father of this young man and didn’t really know what his son really looked like, he had to creep into his son’s room like a thief when the boy was asleep to allow himself a closer look. What kind of a father was he?
However, Murdoch didn’t leave, instead he bent down and drank the young man’s features. He nearly gasped as he saw how much Scott resembled Catherine. Of course, he had observed this earlier when Scott entered the Great Room, but now, as the boy slept this resemblence became far more obvious. His gaunt masculine features were now softened and totally relaxed, making him look very young. The tight set of his mouth and jaw Murdoch had obsereved earlier was now totally gone, replaced by a soft innocent expression.
His hair had the color of Catherine’s hair, the color of hay in the sunshine.
Murdoch held his breath. The urge to touch Scott overwhelmed him. But how could he dare and touch him now, when Scott wasn’t aware and therefore not able to withdraw?
He was a coward, always had been a coward when it came to this son. He had failed both of his sons badly, but this one he had failed the worst. Although he knew where Scott was during all these years he had given up on him, simply given up on him. When he didn’t receive any answer to his letters he at last decided it the best to stop writing. He found it more reassuring that Scott didn't want to see him than to go to Boston and fight for his boy.
At last Murdoch himself believed that Scott was happy in Boston, had everything he wanted and didn’t need him.
Had he been wrong? He didn’t know yet.
Would he ever be able to make it up to his sons? The beginning of their relationship surely couldn’t have been worse. Had Scott traveled thousands of miles to be greeted by an edgy old man who bellowed at him “Drink??” instead of giving him and Johnny a kind welcome? Certainly not. But how could he have known that seeing his sons the first time after almost 20 years would cause him such uncomfortable emotions? He had been at a loss as to what to say.
Murdoch sighed, feeling guilty.
His hand lingered above the fair head, again seemed to move by itself, it came down and ever so lightly caressed the blond bangs, then moved down and cupped Scott’s cheek very softly. Scott’s eyelids flickered and he mumbled something unintelligible, then stretched his long legs and settled himself more comfortable in the bed. But he didn’t wake up.
Murdoch breathed with relief and withdraw his hand regretfully, knowing how embarrassed both of them would be if Scott woke up and became aware of his father hovering over him and caressing him like a child. Scott would be puzzled enough to see his father in his room anyway.
Murdoch’s throat constricted when he thought that this was actually the first time he had ever touched this son in any way apart from that quick handshake at Scott’s 5th birthday. He had caressed Johnny , held him in his arms and cared for him when Johnny was a baby, but Scott never.
At this very moment Murdoch made up his mind. He couldn’t change the past, but everything was possible in the future.
“I won’t let him down ever again, Catherine, I swear,” he whispered.
Then he carefully pulled the book from the lax fingers and dragged the bedcovers up to his son’s chest.
When he stretched and turned to switch out the lamp on the nightstand he became aware of Johnny standing in the doorway, watching him. Murdoch froze, then smiled hesitantly, feeling caught in the act.
In Johnny’s eyes he saw puzzlement, then the look changed and there appeared, only for a second, something else - longing and - hope? This expression waned as quickly as it had turned up and was replaced by the look of indifference that had been on Johnny’s face ever since he arrived, hiding all his feelings behind that mask.
“Sorry, the door was open,” Johnny stated, then turned and disappeared towards his room.
Murdoch followed, quietly closing the door of Scott’s bedroom.
Johnny’s bedroom was dark, the only light coming from the moon shining through the open French doors.
His son was standing on the threshold, silhouetted against the sky. He still wore his coat and his gun.
Murdoch suddenly had the odd feeling that this wild and untamed son would change into an eagle, unfold his wings and disappear into the moonlit sky to escape the room he didn’t seem to fit in.
He had to ask, he couldn’t hold the question back. “Are you going to leave ?”
Johnny turned and faced his father. Murdoch couldn’t see his eyes in the dark but he dreaded the answer.
“I already told you I would stay, Old Man. At least til this thing with Pardee is over,” his son said in a surprisingly soft voice.
Then he once more stared into the night.
Murdoch let out the breath he realized he had been holding.
“I’m glad you are staying.“ There was no reaction from the silent figure leaning at the dooframe.
"Johnny, are you okay?"
"I'm fine," the young man answered curtly.
Murdoch hesitated a few seconds, then whispered: “Good night, Johnny.”
With that he left the room.
Murdoch stood in the dark hallway, feeling a very small glimmer of hope in his heart. He didn’t know where it came from, but it was there.
This was not going to be easy, but he was determined to make it up to both of his sons. Step by step he was going to gain their trust. He would never again let down either of them, never.
This time he would fight.
~ Fine ~
Becky W., June 2009