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.
Scott reined in the team on the top of the hill that overlooked Lancer. He looked down and took in the green meadows and the glimmering water of the river and the lake.
“....... as far as the eye can see….. The most beautiful place in the whole wide world……Lancer.........”
He smiled as he remembered Teresa's words that day when she had picked him and Johnny up in Morro Coyo to bring them to their father's ranch. She certainly had been right.
Scott took a deep breath and relaxed. His head had started to throb increasingly, but the sight of the white hacienda among the rolling hills and green meadows soothed his troubled mind. This was his home, here lived his family and here he wanted to live.
He had made this clear to his grandfather hours before when he brought Harlan Garrett to Morro Coyo to catch the early afternoon stage coach. It hadn't been an easy job, though.
Scott had been adamant that he would take his grandfather to town. He didn't tell anybody, but the reason was he didn't want his grandfather to bother or hurt his family anymore. And Scott wanted to see him actually climb that stage coach that would take him away from California.
As Scott's injury wasn't that bad and Sam Jenkins didn't object his family finally agreed to let him go.
The first miles they traveled in complete silence. Then his grandfather started to tell him how sorry he was, that he hadn't wanted Scott to get hurt, but he still believed that Scott belonged in Boston and not here. He had a legacy in Boston, he had been raised to take over his grandfather's business! Although he admitted that his way to get Scott to Boston was wrong he still thought that justified his actions. And he wished Scott would understand these reasons.
Scott listened quietly until they finally reached the town, aware that his grandfather was probably troubled by his silence.
He halted the wagon behind the already waiting stage coach and turned to face his grandfather.
"Scotty, I don't expect you to forgive me, but perhaps you could try to understand..... .... I know now you will not come back to live with me, but maybe, sometime, you will come and visit me.....but perhaps you even won't do this........" , Harlan's voice trailed off, his eyes looked uncertain, a look Scott had never seen in his grandfather's eyes before. Suddenly Harlan Garrett seemed vulnerable.
Scott felt sick to his stomach as he thought of what he had to say; after all it was his grandfather he was talking to. The man who had raised him and to whom he had always looked up to; whom he loved in a special way.
"Grandfather, now listen to me." He paused. This was not easy to express. "You are my grandfather and you will always be. You are family as well as Johnny and Murdoch."
He stopped and took a deep breath; his increasing anger helped him to go on:
"However, I do not understand the things you did, but I can see the reasons why you acted this way. Although, I cannot accept what you did. I know you didn't want anybody to get hurt. But you hurt me and my family a lot, and not only physically. You made me believe my father was a murderer!" He stopped, shaking his head in disbelief. "I'll try to forgive you, but I'll never be able to forget what you have done."
He looked into his grandfather's troubled eyes. As Harlan Garrett opened his mouth to say something, Scott raised his hand. He was not yet ready. His voice sounded hoarse with emotion as he spoke:
" I don't want you to ever come here again, Grandfather. Murdoch wouldn't throw you out because you are my grandfather; but I will. You will never do any harm to anyone in my family again, I'll see to that!"
Inhaling deeply Scott finished: ".........and I will never come back to Boston to live with you, there you are right. I belong here! The only thing I can promise now is that I'll visit you some day, when I'm ready to do so. It could take me some time to overcome this, I don't know yet......" His voice trailed off.
He looked at his grandfather expectantly, wanting him to understand. Harlan Garrett sighed. "All right, Scotty, I suppose you cannot offer more at the moment - perhaps this is even more than I could have expected.....goodbye then, Scotty.........." He hesitated and looked at Scott hopefully, as if waiting for Scott to say something, perhaps change his mind. But Scott remained silent. Upon receiving no answer Garrett lowered his gaze sadly, climbed off the wagon and walked over to the stage coach, a lonesome old man, looking somewhat older than he had looket the day he arrived at Morro Coyo. Scott's heart ached at this sight.
He jumped to the ground, reached for his grandfather's luggage and handed it over to the stage coach driver.
"Goodbye, Grandfather," he whispered, stepping back.
As the stage coach bumped out of sight around the corner of the street with Harlan Garrett actually on board, Scott let out a sigh of relief. He was gone and would never come back. But his relief and triumph was not as big as he had thought. In fact, his grandfather's betrayal hurt him deeply and disappointed him more than he thought. The realization that he he did not know his grandfather at all although he had lived with him for 24 years was a shock. Even in his worst dreams he could not have imagined what Harlan Garrett was capable of.
And while standing on the dusty road of Morro Coyo, arms hanging at his sides, and watching the stage coach disappear, he knew that he had lost something very special to him: he had lost respect and trust for his grandfather, the most important person in his life for 24 years. That filled him with sadness and he suddenly felt worn out and exhausted. The las two weeks had taken its toll, physically and mentally.
"Scott Lancer! What happened to you? You don't look too well! You look as if you should be home and in bed!" It was the Widow Hargis' concerned voice that interrupted his thoughts. Scott turned and smiled at the little woman's kind face.
"Good afternoon, Mrs Hargis, I'm fine, thank you, I had a little accident." He pointed to his bandage. "I just brought my grandfather to the stage coach. And now I'm on my way back to Lancer."
"No, you aren't, my boy", she said decisevly, taking his arm and dragging him towards her place. "You look terrible and you aren't leaving without a cup of coffee and a piece of my apple pie. You'll see, you'll feel much better then!"
There was no way to convince her otherwise, and at last Scott relented. A cup of coffee and a piece of pie as well as a talk with that lively woman could help distract him from his brooding mood.
Johnny Lancer burst through the French Doors into the Great Room. The doors slammed shut behind him with a bang, and the glass of the windows rattled audibly.
Murdoch nearly jumped from his seat at the big desk where he was working on the books.
"Johnny, what happened?" he asked anxiously.
"Why, nothin's happened", Johnny answered with a puzzled expression.
"Johnny!" Murdoch interrupted angrily. "Could you just come into the house like a normal human being the next time? I nearly jumped out of my skin! And besides, young man, I don't know if you would have the money to repair those windows!"
"Oh," Johnny cast a guilty glance over his shoulders towards the French Doors, then turned back to face his father. "I'm sorry, Murdoch, didn't mean to startle you." He looked at Murdoch eagerly. "Is Scott back yet?"
Murdoch's anger disappeared as quickly as it had risen while he looked into his son's expectant eyes. Johnny sometimes was as impatient as a child, he thought. Like Maria. Once more this son reminded him of his hot tempered, turbulent Mexican wife.
"No, Son. He's not back yet. He can't be back yet unless he can fly, Johnny. It's 3 o'clock. We can't expect him to be here before 4 o'clock or even later. You know that."
Johnny lowered his eyes and let out a breath. "Yeah, I know. I just thought........." his voice trailed off. He took off his hat and turned it around in his hands.
Murdoch smiled. "He's a grown man, Johnny. He can handle his grandfather."
"Yes, but he's still sick, Murdoch. And this old man, this......... sonovabitch, he's capable of............ anything. I don't trust him at all!" Johnny hissed through clenched teeth, angrily clapping his hat against his thigh.
"But you do trust Scott, don't you, Son?" Murdoch countered, his eyes again on the books.
"Yeah, sure.........." Johnny ambled through the room and plopped down on the chair on the other side of his father's desk. Absentmindedly he started drumming a rhythm on the desk with his fingers.
At Murdoch's frown he stood up and paced restlessly back and forth, his spurs jingling at every move. He picked up items from the shelves and regarded them as if he had never seen them before; then put them back and strolled towards the next object that drew his interest.
Finally Murdoch shut his book with a thud. "Johnny, you're driving me crazy. If you don't know how to busy yourself I'm sure I'll find something for you to do!"
Johnny slammed his hat on his head. "I'm going to meet him!" With that he turned and hurried out, not waiting for his father's reaction. This time he closed the French Doors cautiously, mindful of the window glass.
Murdoch turned in his chair and looked out of the great window behind his desk. He wouldn't hold Johnny back. To be honest he was edgy about the situation himself and now he was somewhat relieved that Johnny was going to ride out to meet his brother. After all, Scott was hurt, his grandfather was a strenous old man and perhaps Scott would be glad to have some company. Especially when the company was his brother.
Murdoch smiled. He always marveled at the bond between the two boys. He was grateful that everything had turned out so well between them. They had only known each other a year and now they were not only brothers but best friends. Murdoch was well aware that the family reunion could have turned out much differently; it tcould very well have been that they wouldn't get along as they were strangers. And that they wouldn't get along with the stranger that was their father.
He closed his eyes in gratitude. It had been a wonder and it still was.
While watching the hacienda from his position on the top of the hill Scott thought of the Widow Hargis and that it had been a good idea to accept that cup of coffee. He felt much better when he left her. But now he longed for his bed.
He saw someone ride away from the large white house. The rider galloped quickly across the meadows, reached the white arch and took the road towards the hills. Scott regognized the pale horse even from this distance. He knew what Johnny was doing. He was late and his brother was coming to meet him.
A warm feeling spread from the pit of his stomach over his entire body. His grandfather had hurt him badly, but down there was his brother who cared for him, and right now Johnny was the only one he would want by his side. He flicked the reins and urged the team into a fast gait down the hill.
They met halfway. The expression of relief on Johnny's face quickly changed to concern when he had a closer look at Scott. Scott was pale and sat slumped on the wagon seat. That was very uncharacteristic and showed his measure of exhaustion. Normally his "soldier brother" would sit on the wagon with the same straight back as on a horse; he never slouched. Had his head wound become worse?
"Hey Johnny, what are you doing out here?" Scott smiled broadly at his brother.
"I've been looking for strays, Brother, " Johnny answered, reining in Barranca at the wagon's side.
"And - have you found any?" Scott asked mockingly.
"Yeah, just found the last one."
In spite of Scott's seemingly calm expression Johnny did not miss the sorrow in his brother's eyes nor the slump of his shoulders. He knew it was more than the head wound. His normally self confident, reassuring brother who he always could rely on, who used to hold his ground like a rock looked sad and defeated. Something was very wrong and Johnny had an idea what the reason might be for Scott's problems.
"Any trouble?" he tried.
Johnny studied his brother's profile. He knew this expression very well. By the determined set of his jaw he could tell that Scott was not willing to say anything more. But Johnny wasn't a man to give in easily; he was as stubborn as his brother.
He dismounted Barranca and fastened the reins of the golden stallion to the back of the wagon. Then he climbed the wagon seat and sat down next to Scott.
"Let me, Scott," he said softly. "You look like hell". With that, he took the reins from his brother's limp grip and clicked the team into motion. Scott didn't protest; he thankfully leaned back into the wagon seat, seemingly relieved that Johnny took the lead. 'Another bad sign,' Johnny thought.
The wagon slowly made his way down the hill. The plodding of the horse's hoofs was the only sound to be heard.
After a while Johnny made another try.
"Scott......... this whole thing...... I mean, this whole mess with your grandfather..........and now, this sending him away......all this has been hard on you, huh?"
Scott thoughtfully watched the nodding of the horse's heads in front of them.
Suddenly he looked up and straight into Johnny's eyes.
"Johnny, if you know somebody for 24 years and live with him this whole time, would you think you knew him very well?"
"Yeah, of course I would think so."
"Me too, I thought so." He sighed and looked down.
Johnny waited silently, his eyes on the horses' backs.
"And now............ now I'm asking myself how I could have been so wrong about my grandfather for all those years? I loved him, trusted him. Of course, he was a hard and gruff old man, but he was the only family I had back in Boston. How could he even think to do this to me and my family?"
He looked at Johnny, his eyes filled with hurt. "I used to think he loved me in his own way - I mean - I'm his grandson! But now, now I'm not sure anymore. It seems the only thing that he loves and cares for is his empire - and the only thing he needs me for is to take that damn legacy!" Scott hissed the last words out in frustration.
"No, Scott, stop it."
Johnny halted the team and turned to face his brother.
"You know I don't like your grandfather, Boston, and actually I've no reason to speak for him, but there's one thing I know for sure: he does love you and he cares for you a lot, I saw that when you were injured and we brought you back to the Ranch."
Johnny had seen the worry on Harlan Garrett's face and the shaking hand that reached out to touch the injured man's face. Later on Harlan and Murdoch had butted heads when the old man tried to get to Scott's room while Dr Jenkins was working on him.
"He wanted you to come back not only for his empire, I'm sure. He wanted you, he longed for you. I know that."
Scott eyed Johnny warily.: "He really has a strange way of showing it."
Smiling sadly he added after a while: "But perhaps I shouldn't be that astonished. Actually, if I think back, he always had strange way of showing feelings.... and actually I have known that all the time." He sighed. "But damn,........it hurts!"
Johnny shifted in his seat and looked down at his hands. "Knowing that doesn't dim the hurt, huh? I know well how that feels, Scott, finding out that somebody you used to look up to..... that somebody who was kinda......... hero to you turns out to be a very normal human being." He looked up into Scott's eyes. "I felt the same when I learned that my mother had lied to me all the years ..... about Murdoch." He paused and let out a breath. "Can't be helped. She's my mother and I love my mother anyway. Same with your grandfather, I guess. You can't stop loving him. Nothing wrong with that, I figure. It's just the way things are....." Johnny shrugged and looked at Scott, waiting for his reaction.
Finally Scott smiled and wrapped an arm around his brother's shoulders, squeezing ligthly. "Since when, Little Brother, have you gotten so smart?"
Johnny grinned, his eyes sparkling: "I've always been, Big Brother. Only thing is - you didn't notice........maybe since normally you are the smartass..........."
Scott quickly grabbed Johnny's hat at the brim and pulled it over his brothers eyes. "Be careful, Little Brother, or I'll really have to teach you some manners some day!"
Chuckling, Johnny shoved his hat back, took up the reins and flicked them across the horses' backs. "Now, Boston, let's go home! Murdoch and Teresa are waiting, I'm hungry and you - you need to rest!"
Scott leaned back, relief evident on his face. Johnny knew it would take time to overcome what happened, but Scott had his family to lean on.
Murdoch looked out of the large window behind his desk, wishing his sons would show up.
Quick footsteps approaching told him that Teresa had entered the Great Room. She appeared by his side and wrapped an arm around his waist. Leaning her head against his shoulder, she asked: "You are waiting for the boys, aren't you?"
"Yes, dear." Throwing an arm across her shoulders, he planted a kiss on the top of her brown head, his eyes never leaving the road from the distant hills. "But don't worry, they'll be back soon."
She lifted her head to look at him and smiled affectionately: "I'm not worrying, Murdoch. YOU are."
Puzzled he turned to look at her, raising his brows. Was he that easy to read?
Suddenly she pulled free from his grip and stretched out her arm. "There they come!"
Murdoch stepped closer to the window to have a better look. Indeed, there they were coming. The wagon had just passed the Lancer Arch and was still far away, but he could already see both his boys, sitting side by side on the wagon seat.
He let out a breath of relief. Why had he been that nervous? Did he have a reason not to trust Scott? Of course they would come home were they belonged - both of them.
~ Fine ~
Becky W., November 2009