Before Johnny was fully awake he knew it was late and that he had slept in.
However, he was aware of where he was and what time of the morning it was. Years of living in the wilderness had taught him to always be alert, to always be ready to fight for his life; to sleep with open eyes. As a former gunfighter, he couldn’t afford to give in to a restful deep sleep.
But today things were different. Today he had slept in.
He lay motionless on his bedroll. In his former life he also had learned that he needed to wake up without moving to scan the surroundings unseen.
How had he been able to sleep in like this? Outside in the wilderness? Soundly - like a baby?
This had never happened before in those long years of living in and near the border towns; and never since his mother had died.
He frowned. Had he become soft in this new life? Shouldn't he be worried at his carelessness?
No. No, nothing to worry about. On the contrary, it felt good, this easiness.
He had not felt like this in a long, long time after spending a night outside. He felt refreshed, rested, relaxed, warm and safe on his bedroll.
Feeling lazy he listened to the low noises around the campsite.
He heard the movements of the horses and their soft snorts.
He heard the whispering of the wind in the leaves above his head.
He heard the cracking of wood in the campfire and the sizzling of something frying in a pan.
And he heard approaching footsteps.
However, there was no need to get all steamed up about them. He would have known those confident long strides out of thousands.
His brother was on his way toward the fire, accompanied by the noise of water splashing against the sides of a pot. Scott was about to brew coffee, Johnny realized with a wistful feeling in his stomach.
But he didn't want to get up yet. He even didn't want to move a finger. He wanted to keep this precious peaceful moment.
The footsteps stopped.
Cracking his eyes open a slit, his vision was filled with a pair of very long legs standing next to him.
Then the legs disappeared and his brother kneeled down near the campfire, busying himself with whatever was frying in that pan.
Through half closed eyes Johnny watched his brother prepare their breakfast.
Nothing else seemed to be important to Scott now; nothing else but this breakfast. The slender hands worked quietly and with determination.
Confidence and care radiated from Scott even while doing this simple task. In fact, Scott never did anything in his life without taking care.
Johnny realized, it was this calmness and confidence coming from Scott that made him feel safe and comfortable in Scott's company.
The strong presence of his brother had allowed him to relax. Scott had taken over yesterday. He had not only taken the first watch but had also watched over him throughout the night.
He finally had found a person he could trust with his life. What a fortunate man he was, Johnny thought, wondering how on earth he had deserved a brother like Scott.
And - how much good luck could a man stand, anyway?
He swallowed. These unknown feelings almost hurt.
Scott meanwhile had heaped the contents of the pan on two plates and now turned towards him.
Their eyes met.
Johnny quickly closed the door to his soul. Had Scott seen anything in his eyes?
"You're awake!“ Scott grinned down at him, eyes sparkling with amusement. "I was beginning to worry you wouldn't wake up until Christmas.“
For a second another moment like this came to Johnny’s mind. Scott, grinning down at him after he had shot Pardee. On that day Scott had saved his life.
Johnny closed his eyes again, stretching and yawning with enjoyment.
"You know, Brother“, he drawled, trying to free himself from the blankets and sit up. "Every now and then I need my beauty sleep.“
Scott's grin widened. Handing him the plate and a mugful of steaming coffee he retorted:
"Well, YOU would know, Brother. As for me, I don't need a thing like that. I'm beautiful anyway. Ask the girls in town.“
"Not sure 'bout that, Scott“, Johnny chuckled.
He then sobered. "Thank you, Scott.“
Their eyes locked once again and he saw, Scott knew. His brother always knew.
"You're welcome, Brother, you know that.“
After pouring a healthy amount of tequila into the mug in Scott's hand, Johnny filled his own cup and together they leaned back against a boulder. Sitting shoulder by shoulder in companionable silence they slowly sipped the sharp liquor.
Tilting his head Johnny regarded the sky. Another campfire, another boulder – but the same sky as yesterday.
And the same brother by his side.
Feeling the soft pressure of Scott's shoulder against his own and the warmth radiating from his brother's body seeping into his, Johnny Madrid Lancer discovered he had never let anyone come that close, either physically or mentally.
Hell, he could even feel his brother's breathing.
In former times such closeness would've been unthinkable to him.
Smiling, he shook his head in disbelief.
Scott's head came up from the boulder, eyes shining in the light of the campfire as he glanced at Johnny.
Scott's voice sounded drowsy and his tongue seemed heavy.
It wasn’t lost on Johnny that his brother was pretty done in, and no wonder after the sleepless night before.
Johnny casually had suggested they make camp earlier than normal to give the horses some needed rest. Scott didn’t object but seemed relieved.
Now the tequila appeared to put him over the edge.
"No Brother, just thinking...“
"'bout what?“ Scott mumbled.
"'bout … brothers … and other things … Scott? What d'ya think makes a home a home? “
This would be the last night of their trip, tomorrow they would reach Lancer – their home.
It felt good to have a place to now call home.
But what made a place a home? The hacienda was a large monumental building, beautiful and impressive. And the fancy house of Scott's grandfather in Boston had to be something, too.
"The people living there make a home a home. Family makes a home a home.“ Scott stated, matter-of -factly. He took another sip of his drink and his head drooped back against the boulder.
Johnny nodded. Yes, that was it. Smart as usual, Scott had hit the bull's eye, without thinking. Words came so easy to him.
Of course, Scott, Murdoch, Theresa, Maria and his many friends, the ranch hands, made the hacienda his home. Once his home had been where his mother was. Now his home was where his father and brother were, and his "sister“.
He took the last sip of his tequila and wiped his mouth with his shirtsleeve.
But before he could relax and lean his head against the boulder again, another thought struck him. Harlan Garrett had raised Scott and Scott liked his grandfather. That was obvious from the way he used to talk about him.
Harlan Garret wasn’t dead, like his mother. What if Scott still felt Boston was home? What if he didn't think about Lancer as home?
Johnny didn't like that thought. He had to know for sure.
"What 'bout you, Scott? Where do you feel at home? …. Scott?“
There was no answer from his brother, and as he felt the increasing pressure against his body, Johnny became aware that Scott had fallen asleep, head lolling and coming to rest on his shoulder.
Surprised, Johnny held his breath, barely daring to move. The Scott he knew wasn't one for too much closeness, very much like himself. Scott usually preferred to hold everyone at arm's length and attached great importance to his privacy.
Something had happened between the two of them on this trip.
Murdoch had sent them away together with chores all over the ranch several times since that day a few months ago when they had entered the Great Room to meet their father for the first time in their lives.
On those trips they had gradually got to know one another, but on this trip they were learning to trust each other completely.
Johnny carefully leaned his head against the rock, grinning. Clever Old Man.
The clattering noise of the mug slipping from his brother's lax fingers onto the rocky surface interrupted Johnny's reverie and made both men jump.
Scott's eyes flew open, and he struggled to sit up.
But he slumped against his brother, his eyes drowsy and ready to close.
"Hey Brother“, Johnny took the chance, grabbed Scott by the shoulders and gently lowered him down onto the bedroll beside him.
"You better lie down here, huh? That'd be more comfortable, I bet.“
"Huh?“ struggling against his brother's grip with weak movements Scott tried to rise. "No, lemme take ... watch....“
"No. No way, Brother, not this time“ , Johnny pressed him back down. "This time it's my turn.“
Scott didn't fight back any longer. A hint of a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as his eyes closed and his limbs relaxed.
"Lancer.“ , he mumbled.
"I know, Brother“, Johnny said, spreading a blanket over him. "Now go to sleep, will ya?“
While listening to Scott's breathing as he fell into a deep sleep Johnny's mind started wandering again.
It felt so good to care for someone, something he hadn’t done for a long time.
Ever since his mother had died he hadn't cared for anybody, sometimes not even for himself.
Okay, he had cared for his horse. And he had looked after his gear. He had wiped his saddle, polished and cleaned his gun.
These actions had given him a feeling of pride and satisfaction.
But looking after family and caring for a brother was something very different. He was rewarded with a feeling of happiness, warmth and belonging.
You couldn't feel a sense of belonging and warmth for a saddle or a gun. A gun didn't give anything back but a hollow treacherous feeling of safety.
A brother and a family gave everything you needed. A home, real safety.
He and his brother were home – finally.
Johnny's gaze fell on his brother's sleeping form.
Scott had given himself into his hands. Vulnerable and defenseless, with the trust of a little boy he slept, knowing that nothing would happen to him as long as his brother was around.
"You sleep, Scott, I'll keep watch over you“, Johnny whispered.
~ Fine ~
Becky W., September 2010