“I said you’re staying here Johnny.” The windows shook as Murdoch Lancer stood his ground against his youngest son.
“I can take care of myself.” Even though Johnny’s voice seemed calm his eyes indicated otherwise.
“I’ll lock you in your room if you don’t stop this nonsense and listen to reason. I mean it young man.” This time the rafters seemed to groan from Murdoch’s bellowing as he stood towering over his obstinate child.
“You’ve been treating me like some little kid and I don’t like it. Why don’t you just take your belt and tan my hide. Would that make you feel better?” Dios! Why did he so easily fall into it with the old man? Even to his own ears he sounded like a whinny kid, and yet here he was resenting Murdoch for treating him that way.
“I don’t need a belt to keep you from leaving.” The words came out like a challenge and Murdoch was prepared to back them up.
“I’m sick of having to stay around here. I feel like a prisoner in my own home.”
“All I’m asking Johnny is for you to give me time to get this worked out. Hadley has four boys. Every one of them as big as a mountain; and each one determined to take a turn at pounding you into the dirt.” Murdock tried to reason, his voice sounding calmer than he felt with his most stubborn son.
“I ain’t afraid of them, and…..” Johnny got no further before Murdoch interrupted him yelling his frustration.
“Damnation Boy! Don’t you understand? This is no gunfight you’re going into. All four have vowed to whip your butt.”
Scott had been standing quietly by listening to the exchange between his father and little brother. Usually he would have interceded before now, however, this time he was every bit on Murdoch’s side. Looking at his younger sibling, he was more convinced than ever that Johnny was heading for a fight he had no chance of winning. So stepping next to his father Scott was making it very clear with whom he was siding.
“Johnny, be reasonable. The smallest of them is still over twice your size and the one thing they want most right now is to put a hurt on you that can not be washed off. Besides it is partly your fault. The least you could do now is to show a little patience while Murdoch tries to smooth this over.”
“Just how do you figure any of this is my fault? I didn’t do nothin’ wrong.” Johnny’s voice mirrored the anger in his face.
“If you had not chased after their sister we would not be having this discussion right now.” Scott gave Johnny a frustrated look as he recalled the scene he had come across when he went to investigate the commotion at the dance on Saturday night.
“I wasn’t the one doing the chasing brother! That girl tackled me, and then was all over me before I could get away!”
“Maybe so little brother; however, you did get caught by her, and then by her brothers.” Scott then smiled and addressed his next comment to his father.
“If you think your son is quick with a gun, you should see how quick he is on his feet when four irate brothers are fast on his tail.”
Johnny shot a deadly look towards his older brother. “It wasn’t them I was trying to run from. It was Betsy. And just for the record she cornered me. Kept kissing and telling me what a good wife she was gonna’ make me.”
“Are you saying she attacked you?” Murdoch stared at his son skeptically.
“You were caught struggling with her, Little Brother. I saw you myself.” There was just a hint of reprimand as Scott addressed his brother.
“The only struggling going on Big Brother was me trying to hang on to my pants while she was trying to get them off me. And I don’t care what her pa and brothers say she is no lady. If you don’t believe me then just go ask Walt or any of the other hands. It ain’t the first time Betsy Hadley has tried to snare her a husband by trying to wrestle him out of his clothes, and then suggesting they start hunting a preacher.” Johnny stood his ground glaring at both his brother and his father.
“Why didn’t you just tell me this the other night, Son?” Murdoch had brought down his tone a couple of octaves and walked up to Johnny who by now was trying to gain some control over his own emotions.
“Cause Mr. Hadley is your friend and I didn’t want to say anything bad about his daughter.” The words were spoken softly and with a bit of remorse.
“I appreciate your concern, Son. However, that doesn’t change the fact that this is still a volatile situation, and I need time to settle this between our families. You are still confined to the ranch. Do I make myself clear?” Though Murdoch spoke more on the gentle side it also rang with authority making his son bristle at the order.
Johnny gave his father and brother his best Madrid glare only to realize they had by now grown immune. It was a Mexican standoff and it seemed no one was prepared to back off. So, finally not giving a damn about what his father or brother thought, the youngest Lancer made a decision, a decision he knew his father would not like.
“I’m going to town. I’m going to find a poker game and hopefully win everybody’s money. Then I’m going to buy a few rounds of beer for my friends. See you later.” He started to leave but just as he was about to go around his father, Murdoch reached out and grabbed his arm.
Scott caught his breath when he saw the look on his father’s face. Instinctively he stepped forward knowing Johnny had just crossed the line and he felt compelled to defuse the quarrel before it got too far out of control. He halted in his tracks when his father once again turned to his little brother.
Murdoch never raised his voice, but there was a menacing ring that could not be denied as he addressed his stubborn son. “I won’t discuss this with you any further. I said you are staying here and that’s the end of it.”
Johnny felt like he was being treated like a frightened child whose father was trying to hide him away from bullies. Jerking his arm away he headed straight to the door intent on getting to the barn and his horse. He was going to ride to town, and he was going to find that poker game. He was so focused on making it to the double French doors that he was unaware of his father coming up behind until it was too late.
Murdoch swung Johnny around to face him. Once again he tried to dictate his authority over his son. “I said you are staying here, and that is the end of this discussion.”
“You plan on stopping me, Old Man?” Johnny spoke softly but the challenge was loud.
“Yes! Before you can leave this ranch you have to get past me.” Murdoch informed his son.
“What are you talking about?” There was a look of caution on Johnny’s face as he looked up at his father.
“You get past me and I won’t stop you from leaving…..”
Scott stepped up to protest, “But Sir…” Murdoch held up his hand to still his older son from interfering further.
“As you seem so bent on fighting you can start with me. The last man standing wins. If by chance that happens to be me then you stay put with no more arguing, and give me a chance to get this worked out.” Murdoch threw the gauntlet down knowing his son would not pass up the chance to try and best him.
For a couple of seconds Johnny sized up the hulking figure before him. He knew his chances of getting past his father were on the short side of equal. He had already witnessed Murdoch wiping up the streets in Blessing with some tough and unscrupulous characters. He had seen his father in several fights, and not once could he remember seeing the big rancher walk away with anything less than a win or at least a draw.
however, Johnny inherited none of his father’s size, but more than his share of
stubbornness, and pride. It was the latter that made him accept Murdoch’s
~*~*~*~*~ L ~*~*~*~*~
In a weak attempt to show some confidence, and bravado Johnny jerked his hat off and threw it on the desk followed by his gun belt. Stalking out side, he contemplated his chances of actually getting past his father; but just to make himself feel better he kept thinking of three things. One, I’m his kid, so he won’t kill me permanently. Two, I’m younger, and faster, so I just have to keep movin’ till I wear him down; and three, I’m just as stubborn as he is.
Johnny paced around in the yard just outside of the corrals. Flexing his hands, and swinging his arms to limber up, he waited for his father to make his way to him. The hands noticed something was brewing and began to crowd around. Everyone knew of the threat against Johnny by the Hadley boys, and how the boss was reacting to that threat. There curiosity to how Murdoch was going to handle the situation drove them to gather, and watch what promised to be a very interesting confrontation between father and son.
Knowing his brother was letting his temper overrule common sense, Scott felt a need to try and stop the inevitable before it could start. Walking up to Johnny he leaned in so that only his brother could hear him. “It’s not too late to stop this.”
“Why can’t you be reasonable? You are as hard headed as Murdoch. You are going against a bear protecting his young, and you Little Brother, are the cub. He won’t loose because he feels he has too much at stake. The only question now is how much are you willing to take?” Scott knew he was talking to a Lancer wall, and all he had done was waste his breath, but he had to at least try.
~*~*~*~* L *~*~*~*~
Jelly noticed that the two men he had been supervising had disappeared so he went in search of them, only to be brought up short when he saw Murdoch and Johnny facing each other off. Quickly, the old man sidled up next to Scott. “What in blue blazes is goin’ on now?”
“It’s quite simple really.” Scott calmly explained. “Johnny wants to go into town. Murdoch says no. Johnny insists and so Murdoch is about to kick his tail.”
“Oh for Pete’s sake. Where’s that boys brain? You reckon someone should go get Sam?” Jelly asked frustration, clearly evident in his voice.
“I don’t think that will be necessary Jelly. If I know my father, the only thing he plans to hurt is Johnny’s pride.” Scott by now had made himself comfortable on the top of the corral fence.
“I swear, when the Lord was passin’ out good sense that boy musta’ been hidin’ behind a door. Well better Murdoch whups him proper, and get it over with than him goin’ to town and runnin’ into them Hadleys. Course if it were me I’d just make a trip with him to the woodshed instead of goin’ to all this trouble.” Jelly leaned up against the corral fence with his arms crossed in front of him making sure he had a good view of the ‘butt whuppin’ his young friend was about to receive.
There was a murmuring among the ranch hands, and it seemed there was a small wager going on.
Ready to get it over with Johnny once again attempted to show confidence he was sorely lacking. “ I don’t want to hurt you Murdoch.”
”I don’t want to hurt you either, Son, and I won’t. I will however, kick your behind if it’s the only way to keep you from walking into a lion’s den.” Murdoch knew nothing he could say would dissuade his son from this ridiculous situation.
Not having had the luxury of raising his boys himself, Murdoch had studied them both since their return. He watched their reactions in different situations noticing the smallest details of their character. His constant observations of the boys allowed him to know his sons better than many fathers who had had the privilege of raising their children from birth. Johnny was the more unpredictable of the two, and the hardest to gage at any given time as to what his response would be. The one thing he could count on, however, was the boy would go at this particular confrontation head on, and Murdoch planned his own reactions accordingly.
The youngest Lancer stood and sized up his father for a few seconds. Johnny didn’t think his father wanted this fight and neither did he, but it had gone too far, and he was determined not to hide behind Murdoch’s coattails.
Murdoch stood between his son’s horse, Barranca, and in order to get to the barn the boy would have to go past the Lancer Patriarch.
Johnny walked steadily towards his father prepared to do battle if the older man tried to grab him. What he didn’t expect was to find himself sitting on the ground looking up at the towering figure of his father. He couldn’t even recollect being shoved back it had all happened so fast.
Picking himself up quickly, Johnny brushed off the seat of his pants, and went head on at his father. Murdoch had no problem throwing the boy back to the ground again.
“I told you Son, I’ll stop you anyway I have to.”
Johnny was angry by this time, and once he had gained his footing again he charged at his father, determined that he was not giving up the right to make his own decisions. Murdoch caught his arm as Johnny made an attempt to land a hard right to his father’s jaw. With very little effort Johnny was once again flung to the ground.
“Give it up Boy,” Murdoch bellowed.
“No!” Johnny struggled back to his feet, and on wobbly legs went at his father again. Murdoch caught his son and spun him around, quickly wrapping his arms around Johnny’s waist, and slightly lifting up off the ground.
“Give it up Son. You are not going into town until I get this worked out.” Murdoch held on to his struggling child, but was unprepared for the elbow that Johnny managed to connect with his father’s ribs.
Murdoch lost his hold on his son as the air left his lungs, and before he knew it Johnny had managed to land a hard punch to his jaw. Momentarily stunned Murdoch staggered back a step. Out of instinct he swung an iron fist at his son, and managed to deliver a blow of his own that sent Johnny sprawling flat on his back.
It pained Murdoch to know he had actually caused any kind of pain to his younger son; but he knew it was nothing compared to the punishment the boy would receive if he ran into the Hadley boys.
Johnny raised his head and shook it for a moment trying to clear the stars that were dancing before his eyes. He knew his father was strong but the punch he received completely took him by surprise. In all the fights he had been a participant in he couldn’t remember ever being hit so forcefully.
Scott winced when he saw his little brother hit the dirt hard. Just the sound of his father’s fist making contact with Johnny’s jaw caused him to rub at his own face, as if feeling the impact himself.
Johnny was slow to rise from where he had landed. The blow was unexpected, but it didn’t keep him from trying again. Once more the boy tried to make his way to his feet, eyeing his father while gaining some of his breath back. It was a stalling tactic, but he needed a moment to gather some of his strength. It was going to be harder than he had anticipated getting past the giant that was his father.
Murdoch stood ready, but seemingly unruffled. He appeared calm on the outside, but on the inside his stomach was churning, and his nerves seemed to crackle and pop. He could only hope that Johnny would give up soon, and see the good sense in staying put until the sordid mess could be dealt with.
Johnny seemed to be slowing a bit when getting to his feet but he was still determined to get past his father. Again the boy charged towards his parent, and once again he found himself on the ground looking up. He almost wished Murdoch would just hit him again so he could feel justified in knocking the crap out of the Old Man without any guilt. The memory of the one time Murdoch did deck him made him grimace though at the pain and wasn’t so sure that thought was such a good one.
Over and over Johnny got up and went for his father, and each time he wound up either on his butt or face down eating dirt. Though he was getting up slower, the young man kept coming at Murdoch. Exhaustion was evident, and his breathing was becoming more labored each time he forced himself to his feet.
Murdoch couldn’t believe how resilient Johnny was. He had believed by now the boy would have surely succumbed to the punishment he was receiving. It hurt Murdoch each time he threw his son back on his behind, but it had nearly broke his heart when he’d actually landed a blow to his son’s face. Long before now he started praying the boy would just stay down. Unfortunately his prayers went unanswered, as the young man managed to gain his footing, and even though somewhat wobbly charged at his father determined to at least land another good blow somewhere on his person.
Murdoch was surprised when the boy had actually managed to make contact with his nose, and retaliated with another blow to Johnny’s jaw sending him sprawling. “Stay down Son. It’s over.”
“Not by a long shot Old Man.” Came the mulish reply
While Johnny kept challenging his father, the men had been cheering and yelling but not so with Scott and Jelly, who were standing quietly, both lost in their own thoughts. Suddenly Teresa came from inside the house just stopping short of the spectacle before her.
“What’s going on? Scott can’t you stop this?” She yelled as she started towards the two men who were the center of attention.
Scott grabbed her and kept her back before she got tangled up in the altercation. “Don’t Teresa. It’s between Murdoch and Johnny.”
“But why are they fighting?”
“It is real simple Little Sister. Johnny is getting a lesson in respect: a hard lesson!” Scott continued to watch as his little brother forced his way back up to his feet.
Once again the youngest Lancer staggered over to his father and once again he wound up on the ground.
“Johnny, stay down, please! He has beaten you fair and square Brother.” Scott pleaded with his younger sibling.
“Ain’t no shame in giving in Boy. Stay down afore you really get yourself hurt.” Jelly wanted so badly to go to Johnny and force him to give up. He knew his efforts wouldn’t be appreciated so he stayed rooted closing his eyes. He couldn’t stand to see the boy keep punishing himself by going back for more over, and over. Jelly knew it was hurting Murdoch each time he had to shove the boy down, but had to admire the way the boss was handling the situation though. Murdoch was making sure that the only thing that got hurt was his son’s stubborn pride. The boy would get over that a lot quicker than if he had met up with the Hadley boys.
Johnny ignored the pleas from his brother, and the man he thought of as a second father. Slowly, and deliberately he made it back up to his feet. His vision was beginning to blur, and he couldn’t seem to catch his breath. Once more he made his way to the giant shape that was standing just a couple of feet away, each step slow, and deliberate. Reaching out he stumbled, and then grabbed his father shirt, collapsing into Murdoch’s arms.
“You win Pa.” It was over. Johnny had passed out, and was unaware when his father scooped him up and made his way back into the house.
~*~*~*~*~ L ~*~*~*~*~
Murdoch made quick work of the stairs, and carried his son straight to his own room. Once inside he gently laid him on the huge bed. Looking down on the boy he couldn’t help but notice how small he looked right then.
Murdoch settled his son into the bed trying to make him more comfortable. After boots and clothes had been removed he made a thorough exam of his son’s chest and face. He was grateful to find that there was only a slight bruise to the boy’s jaw. He shook his head as he thought back on how Johnny had continued to come back over. and over only, to be pushed down again and again. He couldn’t help but be proud of his boy’s determination and grit.
“Is he alright Murdoch?” Scott stood inside the door, not sure if he should come in or not without first being invited. He and Johnny had a great respect for their father’s room, and rarely ever entered unless given permission.
“He’ll be fine. He’s just worn out.” Murdoch busied himself with getting a clean towel, and fresh water from the pitcher.
With a gentleness that would seem to be foreign with such a big man he began to bathe the boy’s face. “I never thought he would last that long. He surprised me. Yet I don’t know why I should be. But it seems your brother is always surprising me.”
Murdoch continued to bathe Johnny’s face while Scott watched amazed at the gentle way in which his father tended to his brother. “Scott, make sure that the men go back to work. As soon as I get Johnny settled here, I’m going to ride over and have that talk with Hadley. I want this resolved today. It’s not fair to keep to Johnny locked up here any longer. I should have taken care of it the day after it happened. I don’t know why I kept putting it off.”
“Maybe it was a good excuse to keep him close by. I know you worry about him every time he rides out.” Scott replied.
“I guess.” Looking at his older son, Murdoch added. “I worry about both of you. I guess with his past I worry a little more about him, afraid that it will catch up with him someday. I can’t loose either one of you again. Not after just getting both of you back. I couldn’t survive that again.”
Not sure exactly what to say, Scott walked over to his father, and placed his hand on the older man’s shoulder. “We both feel the same way, Sir.” Looking down at his little brother he smiled, “Some of us just show it in a different way.”
Before his emotions could get the better of him, Scott turned quickly to go and do his father’s bidding.
With his son cleaned up and resting peacefully, Murdoch perched on the side of the bed, and watched Johnny sleep, remembering another time when his younger boy had been put to bed in this very same room after a similar battle of wills. A much younger Johnny had thrown a Lancer size tantrum when told he couldn’t go riding with his Papa, because it was time for his nap. The toddler had struggled, bucked, and pitched, while his father had held him close until the child had grown tired, and succumbed to sleep out of exhaustion. Murdoch had been just as surprised then as he was today at his son’s stamina.
Even then, just as now, it seemed everything was so hard when it came to Johnny. He played hard, worked hard, and fought hard. The stubborn streak that ran through him was just as long as his father’s.
Gently reaching out, Murdoch ran a finger down the side of the boy’s jaw, his heart almost bursting with love when Johnny nestled his face against his father’s hand.
~*~*~*~*~ L ~*~*~*~*~
Scott peeked around the door to check on his brother. Earlier Johnny had been curled up in the enormous bed sound asleep, but that wasn’t the case now. His little brother seemed to be on some kind of quest. The younger Lancer was moving around picking up items, and looking under chairs, and tables in search of what, Scott had no idea.
“Ummm, you loose something Brother?” Scott asked.
“No. Just can’t find them.” Johnny continued his hunt.
“Just what is it you’re looking for?” Scott was watching with amusement as Johnny moved around the room.
“My pants, I can’t leave here with out my pants. You know how Teresa is always lurking about, and I don’t wana’ get caught with out them.
“Did I hear my name?” Just then Teresa came waltzing into the room carrying fresh towels, shirts, and other types of clothing that had been freshly laundered.
“Teresa, I ain’t got my pants on! Get out of here!” Johnny did his best to hide behind a table with a large lamp on it.
“Oh pooh, Johnny Lancer. I’ve seen your underwear plenty of times.” Never giving him a second look, Teresa bustled about putting clothes in various drawers.
“Not with me in them!” Johnny informed his sister somewhat indignantly.
Rolling her eyes, Teresa continued putting things away, and straightening the room as she went.
“Well Little Brother, I would say it’s better to see you in them than to see you out of them.” Scott smiled mischievously at Johnny’s obvious discomfort at being caught in such a vulnerable position.
After placing the fresh towels by the water pitcher, Teresa turned to Johnny, who was still trying to hide behind the lamp, “Murdoch just rode up, and you had better get back into that bed. He expects you to stay there until he can make sure you didn’t suffer any lasting affects from ‘your discussion.’ The last was said with emphasis, and a little hint of disapproval.
“She’s right Little Brother. Murdoch wanted you to rest while he was gone, and it is my job to see to it that you stay put, until he gives his ok for you to get up.” Reaching over the lamp, Scott took hold of Johnny’s arm, and guided him back to the bed.
“Get up there before Murdoch has both of our hides pinned to the side of the barn.”
There was no dignified way for anyone wearing just his underwear to climb back on to the massive mattress. It took a lot of control on Scott’s part to keep a straight face, and not give into the urge to laugh as Johnny crawled across the bed to settle himself comfortably, while waiting for their father to make his way into the room.
~*~*~*~*~ L ~*~*~*~*~
Scott met Murdoch just as he reached the last step. “How did it go?”
“Much better than I anticipated. It seems that Betsy had words with her father and brothers. She convinced them that it would be in their best interests if they discontinued their intentions to throttle your little brother, and did not pursue the matter any further.” Murdoch talked about his visit, as he made his way to his bedroom anxious to check on Johnny.
Scott had been in the middle of telling his father about a small repair job that had been discovered and fixed while the older Lancer had been away, when he noticed him standing in the doorway seemingly starring at something inside.
Murdoch had been listening to his older son reporting on the work that had been attended to when suddenly he stopped just inside the door to his room. What he saw triggered a distant memory of about twenty years ago, a toddler with dark hair wearing nothing but a diaper scampering across the bed laughing, and squealing while a much younger Murdoch tried to chase him down. It had been the little boy’s favorite game, played every time he needed fresh clothing. There before him now was this same boy wearing nothing but stark white long johns, hanging over the bed, his backside sticking up in the air apparently trying to see underneath. The similarity of his image of a tiny Johnny and the one before him now made his heart lurch with a tenderness that almost ached.
“Son, did you loose something?” Murdoch asked as a smile played across his lips.
“No.” Came the quick response.
Scott and Murdoch shared an amused look as they watched the youngest Lancer continue to look under the bed.
“Son, what are you looking for?”
“My pants.” Came another quick and simple answer.
“Why are you looking under my bed?” Murdoch now seemed a bit confused.
“Cause that’s where they usually wind up in my room when I take them off, and since they got took off me in here I just figured that’s where they’d be.” Johnny answered his father with a hint of frustration.
“I see. Well let me assure you John that they are not under my bed. I don’t normally kick things under the bed when I take them off unlike some young man, whose name I won’t mention around here.
Sitting up on his knees now, Johnny asked, “Well what did ya do with them then?”
“I took them downstairs and put them in the laundry basket. Isn’t that where dirty laundry goes?” Murdoch had an idea that this concept was probably foreign to the boy.
“Why are you asking him? It’s like a scavenger hunt every time Maria and I go to gather his clothes on wash day.” Teresa came bustling in just at that time, carrying a fresh set of clothes for Johnny.
“Least you know where to look for them though.” Johnny mumbled under his breath.
“What was that Boy?” Murdoch asked somewhat impatiently, with arms crossed over his chest.
“Nothin’ Sir.” Johnny answered looking contrite.
Johnny shot a weathering look at his little sister as she handed him his pants and shirt. She smiled smugly back at him, before turning and flouncing out the room.
~*~*~*~*~ L ~*~*~*~*~
A cool breeze wafted over him, his hair fluttering like feathers. He laid his head back and allowed his mind to go blank. After a few seconds of peace and meditation he then called on each of his senses one at a time. The feel of the wind as it whispered across his face. The sweet smells of summer filling him like a good meal. Stars scattered the velvet blackness like diamonds, sparkling in brilliant radiance for his eyes pleasure. Then there was the taste of Murdoch’s good scotch whiskey, warming his insides and giving him a peaceful tranquil feeling. And finally, the night sounds, which were like a lullaby softly crooning to him, like a mother to a child.
Johnny sensed before he heard his father and brother approaching from inside the hacienda. Shifting slightly he turned to smile at them as they stopped next to him.
“John, how do you feel this evening?” Murdoch asked as he studied his younger son. Their earlier confrontation still weighed heavily on his mind.
Wanting to put his father’s concerns to rest once and for all Johnny gave Murdoch one of his impish grins and replied. “I’m fine. The only thing that smarts right now is my pride.”
Chuckling, Murdoch reached out to ruffle his son’s hair. “I must say you did surprise me. You lasted a lot longer than I thought you would.”
Looking at his father with a perplexed look on his face Johnny asked. “How could you be so sure you was gonna’ stop me?”
Smiling and raising one eyebrow Murdoch replied. “Let’s just say it was a father’s intuition.”
“Sir, you never told us just what it was that Betsy Hadley said to her father and brothers that caused them to rethink their decision to grind my baby brother here into dust.” Scott knew that ‘baby brother’ reference would irritate Johnny but he just couldn’t resist the opportunity to tease the boy.
“Well let’s just say she presented them with an offer they really couldn’t refuse. I believe her words were something to this effect. If any of you stupid lug heads touch one hair on my sweet Johnny’s head, you’ll be cookin’ and fetchin’ for your own selves from now till you die, unless some poor simple gal agrees to marry any of ya.” Murdoch turned to Scott and winked.
Taking his cue from his father Scott replied, “You know what they say. The best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. It looks to me Little Brother, as if she is after your heart in a huge way.”
Glaring at both, Scott and Murdoch, Johnny sassed back, “It wasn’t my heart she was after or my stomach.”
“According to Luke Hadley he caught you and his daughter in a struggle. That doesn’t seem very gentlemanly of you.” Murdoch knew he was being mean, but it was just too good of an opportunity to tease his younger boy.
“Like I told you this morning, the only struggling going on was me struggling to hang on to my pants, and my dignity, and her struggling to relieve me of both. If her brothers hadn’t shown up when they did I ain’t’ real sure just how I would of got out of that one. She may be little but she sure is strong.” Just the thought of that night at the dance made Johnny shiver.
Just then one of the hands stepped up to Scott, and handed him a wad of bills. “Here you go Scott. I still think it was unfair. He’s your brother, and you had inside knowledge.” Grinning and winking at Johnny, the hand turned and walked back to the bunkhouse.
“What was that all about Boston?” Johnny asked suspiciously.
“No a thing Brother, just my winnings on a little wager I was involved with this morning.”
“What wager? Wager about what exactly?” Johnny had a feeling he knew, but he still hoped he might be wrong.
“Oh just a little bet about how many times Murdoch was going to have to knock you on your keaster before you finally gave in to the inevitable.”
“Well this just gets better and better now don’t it? Glad I could help you out there Brother.” Johnny sarcastically aimed his retort towards his older sibling. Both Scott and Murdoch laughed at the younger man’s attempt to glare at them, but his efforts only came off slightly menacing, as it was all he could do not to smile himself.
The rest of the evening was spent talking about other close calls that all three of the Lancer men had encountered in their lives. It was a pleasant evening of sharing and laughing until Murdoch informed his sons it was time to go to bed. Scott was ready to retire and quickly said his good nights. Murdoch noticed as he went to the door that Johnny had hung back a bit.
“Something else on your mind Son?”
Hanging his head in that customary way he always did when he had something he wanted to say, but was unsure of how to say it, Johnny stepped up to his father and took a deep breath. “Ummm, I just wanted to say sorry for being such a hard case the last few days. I know you were only trying to keep me from getting hurt, I’m grateful to you for getting it settled too.”
Placing his hand on his son’s shoulder Murdoch squeezed it affectionately. “That’s what we fathers do Son, even if we have to resort to drastic measures.”
“Well yeah about that. Thanks for kickin’ my butt cause if you hadn’t, I probably would be dead or broke up really bad by now.” Johnny shot his father a shy grin.
“Remember this Son; any time you need to be reminded about our roles in this house, I’ll be glad to give a demonstration.” Then with a wicked grin on his face Murdoch reached back and smacked Johnny on his backside and playfully growled, “Now off to bed with you Boy.”