Disclaimer: This is for fun, no money is made. The boys are not mine but they live in my heart.
Thanks to my beta Ronnie. Remaining mistakes are mine.
This is my contribution to the story challenge "Left Behind" in the waynemaunderfans - group.
He stood at the rail of the ship that would bring him back to California. He grabbed the rail so strongly that his knuckles turned white.
Looking into the distance he thought of the son he had left behind in the house of his father-in-law.
The little face of his 5 year old son danced in front of his eyes. It was framed by thick long blond hair. Catherine’s hair had been of the same colour. Scott’s expression and behaviour had been too solemn and serious for a 5 year old, Murdoch thought.
This travel was the worst and saddest trip he had ever taken. It was the complete opposite of his journey to Boston, and he felt completely defeated.
He had come to Boston to take his son home with him to California. He had been full of hope and happiness on his way. He would claim Scott and his son would finally live with him.
Murdoch took the first opportunity he had to make this long journey. Finally, after 5 years, he had saved enough money for the travel. His ranch was meanwhile in the good hands of Paul O’Brian, his foreman.
But Harlan Garrett had not given Scott away. He threatened that he would fight for the guardianship in court. He had been adamant that he would not stop before the boy was his. For Murdoch it was most likely that Garrett would win the case for Scott had lived with his grandfather his whole life. The boy didn’t even know his own father.
In addition to this Harlan Garrett was sure that he would be able to convince the court that a small boy didn’t belong in a wild country like California. What father would take a little child to a dangerous country like that when he could be raised in Boston by his rich grandfather - in safety and with everything he needed?
Harlan probably assumed that Murdoch didn’t have the money for a trial as well as not wanting to draw Scott into a lengthy trial.
Garrett had succeeded in filling Murdoch’s mind with uncertainty.
California was a wild untamed country, and thinking of the small frail child Murdoch knew that Garrett had seen his own uncertainty. What if something happened to his son? He would never forgive himself.
All that was left now of Murdooch’s hopes and wishes was the feeling of loss and loneliness. He only had a quick glimpse of his son and the memory of a small warm hand in his. Scott didn’t even know who he was.
Murdoch looked into the wild green waves rolling and splashing near the ship. He had lost his two wives and his two sons. How much more could a man stand?
But then - what had he expected? That Harlan Garrett would give the boy away with pleasure? After what happened to his beloved daughter at Murdoch’s side? And what stupid hopes had he nursed deeply inside concerning Scott? That the boy would fly into his arms, recognizing him immediately, calling him "Father" ? He smiled bitterly. Poor boy. It wasn't his fault.
He stared into the water, feeling strangely drawn to it. The green waves looked inviting.
He had lost everything that was special to him, and now, when he had the chance to fight for his boy, he failed.
What lay ahead? What could he expect of his future? He would lead a life of emptiness. A life without love, nobody to care for and nobody would care for him.
Staring into the waves a thought formed in his mind.
Nobody would miss him. It would be very easy, he only had to let go of the rail…..
Leaning forward, he played with that thought. What if……..
Suddenly he saw a frame swimming under the surface of the water. He blinked several times, but there she was - a water-sprite swam at the side of the ship and dove through the waves like a dolphin. Her long blond hair surrounded her like a large veil. She turned her head and looked up to him. He started. It was Catherine. She looked at him sadly, with blue eyes that seemed to be full of reproach.
“I’m sorry, Catherine”, he whispered, not at all puzzled that his dead wife swam near the boat. “I know, I have failed…..”
She shook her head and smiled; then beckoned with white long fingers enticingly, invitingly.
Murdoch hesitated only a second. “Wait, I’m coming!” he called, leaning even more forward, swinging one leg over the rail.
She dove and disappeared for a short moment among the waves. When the water-sprite reappeared it was no longer Catherine; now it was Harlan Garrett who swam near the ship, at his hand the little boy. He smiled triumphantly, then signaled and disappeared in the dephts of the sea, drawing the boy wiht him who was struggling desperately to free himself.
“Nooooo!” Murdoch cried, letting go of the rail. The water closed above his head, he sank and sank; it felt cold like ice and he couldn’t breathe.
“Catherine, Scott….. where are you?” He panicked and looked around. He was alone.
Darkness and coldness surrounded him.
He suddenly realized what he had done was wrong, he had to go on! He didn’t want to die, he had to fight - for his life and for the boy - for Catherine's sake.
He struggled but couldn’t reach the surface. His lungs cried for air.
Gasping Murdoch opened his eyes. He quickly looked around and saw that he was in his room, in his bed. The feeling of cold came from the cold air that streamed into his room through the open window. His blankets lay on the floor at the side of his bed; he had thrown them off during the hell of his nightmare.
Relieved he sank back and closed his eyes, trying to slow his shallow breathing.
It had been a nightmare, only a nightmare. Scott was no longer in Boston, he was here in the house, in his bed.
Both of his sons were finally home.
Murdoch sighed and reached for the glas of water on the nightstand. Drinking in long sips he realized where this nightmare had come from. Tomorrow would be Scott’s birthday and he had fallen asleep with thoughts of Catherine and of Scott’s 5th birthday 20 years ago, the only birthday he had ever had with his son. If you could say he had that day with his son; actually it hadn't been more than a glimpse of his son that Garrett had allowed him.
Restlessly he shifted in his bed. The dream had been very real and vivid. He felt nervous and uneasy.
Finally he got up. Telling himself that he wouldn’t be able to sleep for a while, he donned a shirt and trousers. He could as well go downstairs and have a drink to unwind. And on his way down he could cast a quick glance into Scott’s and Johnny’s rooms, convince himself that both his sons were really there ……
“Murdoch”, he silently scolded himself while leaving his room. “You are silly.”
He tapped along the hallway and stopped at Johnny’s door. He knew better than trying to sneak into this sons’s room. He had tried once and nearly paid with his life.
Laying his ear at the doorframe he listened, then smiled . Even breathing mixed with soft snores told him that his youngest was exactly where he belonged.
Satisfied Murdoch went to Scott’s door. He stood and listened there, too, meanwhile feeling like a fool. But there was nothing to be heard. He opened the door a fraction and peered through the slit, remembering the first night after the boys’ arrival as he had entered this room to have a look at his unknown son.
But this time the room was empty. In the faint light coming through the window he could see the bed. The bedcovers were thrown back. Scott had obviously slept there, but now was nowhere to be seen.
Still under the impression of the vivid nightmare Murdoch swallowed hard. ‘I knew it, something is wrong!” a soft voice in his head whispered. "Rubbish!" he told himself loudly.
“This is silly. He has to be somewhere around.“
Cautiously Murdoch made his way downstairs through the dark house, wanting to find Scott and get rid of the images of the nightmare.
He entered the kitchen. It was deserted. He walked to the Great Room, barely able to think reasonably, and still angry about his own foolishness.
He stepped into the Great Room and breathed a sigh of relief.
The lamp on the sideboard next to the sofa was lit. His missing son slouched on the sofa, left knee drawn up. His left arm was stretched out on the backrest, long fingers were wrapped around a glas of whiskey. His head rested against his upper left arm and he seemed to look downwards at something that lay on the sofa to his left. He was so engrossed in whatever it was he didn’t seem to notice Murdoch’s approach.
Murdoch stepped closer and opened his mouth to call out softly, in order to not startle the boy when he realized that Scott’s eyes were closed and he was asleep.
Murdoch regarded his sleeping son, touched by the peaceful sight.
Scott's face was soft but showed a strange seriousness with even a hint of sadness. To his left side lay the picture of Catherine that normally sat on Murdoch’s desk.
He pondered if he should awaken him or go back to sleep himself.
Then, looking at the grandfather clock Murdoch made a decision. Actually Scott’s birthday was today and no longer tomorrow. It was nearly 4 o’clock in the morning.
Murdoch turned and went quietly to the cupboard with the bottles. He took two glasses and filled them with his best Scottish whiskey.
He put the glasses on the table in front of Scott and bent down over him.
Reaching out he grabbed his shoulder and shook him tenderly. With the other hand he caught the glas that threatened to fall off Scott's lax fingers.
"Scott! Wake up, son." he called softly.
Scott's head jerked up, his eyes snapped open. Confused, he looked around, not realizing what was happening and where he was.
"Sorry, didn't mean to startle you. But if you stay here you will have a sore back tomorrow."
"Murdoch....." Scott cleared his throat and slowly sat up. Blinking several times he tried to clear his vision, then awareness dawned.
"I couldn't sleep earlier, came down here to have a drink....must have fallen asleep then", he mumbled, a little embarrased that he had been caught in the act.Yawning and stretching his long limbs he added: "I'm already a little sore now....."
Murdoch chuckled and sat down next to him. "That was to be expected, the way you were hanging there. By the way, I couldn't sleep, either."
He handed Scott the glas of whiskey and took his own.
Looking into Scott's questioning eyes he said: "Happy birthday, son."
Scott smiled softly, lifting his glas. "Thank you, Sir." They took a swallow and sat in companionable silence. He had never before felt such closeness to his son.
Suddenly sadness washed over Scott's face, his gaze fell on the picture. He carefully picked it up and caressed his mother's face with his thumb.
"She died the same day when I was born," his voice was barely audible. "I know...." Murdoch answered in an equally low voice.
"I have been dreaming of her....."
Again, they fell quiet for awhile.
It was Scott's voice that broke the silence.
"I.....I used to think..... you abandoned me because you thought I was guilty of her death....."
"No. No, Scott! That's not true!" Murdoch spoke with emphasis. "I never thought that!"
"I know that now for I know you .....Father." Speaking the last words Scott looked steadily into Murdoch's eyes. Hearing the word he had longed to hear from this son ever since that fateful 5th birthday Murdoch swallowed hard around the lump in his throat. Yet he held his son's gaze firmly.
"Scott, I never have told you the reason why I had to leave you behind in Boston, or why I thought I had to do so. Maybe - today is the right day to tell you everything about your mother, your grandfather, you and me."
Scott put Catherine's picture on the table; she faced the two men and seemed to smile contentedly.
Then he leaned back and looked at his father expectantly.
All three of them sat together for the rest of the night. Murdoch's deep voice filled the Great Room while the grandfather clock ticked the hours away.
Outside dawned a beautiful December morning.
~ Fine ~
Becky W., December 2009