by  Debbie Pack

DISCLAIMER: The following is a work of fiction based on the characters of the television series
"Lancer".  No infringement is intended to anyone who owns a portion of this series.  No money was made on this.

SPOILERS: Blindman's Bluff

NOTES/COMMENTS: If you are not familiar with the episode, Johnny is blinded by a bullet after finding ranch hand Lem Cable beat near to death in a Lancer line shack. Old Lem's dying words beg Johnny to get to his house, but he is not able to say why.  Arriving at the man's cabin, Johnny finds it vandalized and begins following the trail leading away from the shack, hoping to catch the old man's killers.  But he is shot from a high vantage point and blinded by the same men who have killed Cable.  Before his attackers can reach him, Johnny is found and taken to a doctor by Lem's mute niece.  A blossoming romance develops between Johnny and Mattie as they attempt to elude the killers now on their trail.  After a timely rescue by Murdoch and Scott, Johnny is taken back to the Lancer ranch for treatment on his eyes.  Mattie, fearing that Johnny may never see again and knowing that she has no hope of ever speaking, decides to return with a doctor friend to a school in the East.  She secretly departs as Johnny's bandages are removed.  His vision is limited, but the doctor feels his full sight will eventually return.  As Johnny turns to share his joy with Mattie, his heart breaks to find she is gone.  Silently, Murdoch hands him the note Mattie has left. After reading through bleary eyes, he races to the window in time to see her disappearing in the distance.  Then despite being unable to see completely, he tries to chase her down on foot to no avail.  Finally Johnny slumps to the road in obvious exhaustion and watches the buggy carrying Mattie pull away.  With sweat streaming down his face he reads once more Mattie's final scrawled words to him.  "Becuz I luv you.  Mattie."


 Murdoch Lancer had never been an alarmist, but at the moment he was greatly worried about his youngest son.  For the first time since Johnny and Scott's return, he had seen Johnny fully open his heart to a woman.

Murdoch had watched him with others and he had always felt that his youngest son kept himself just slightly detached, never quite trusting enough to completely giving himself to a woman.

Until Mattie came along.

With her, Murdoch had seen Johnny become much more open with his feelings and despite the fact that his son knew he could remain blind, he had seemed more at peace with himself and the world around him than at any time since his return home.

But now Mattie was gone.  Seemingly of her own choosing.  Murdoch didn't fully understand why.  The note she had left for Johnny might explain everything, but for now their questions would have to remain unanswered.  Even in his semi?conscious state, Johnny was still clutching the note tightly in his hand and no amount of coaxing had convinced him to release his grip.

After Johnny had burst from the room in a desperate chase after the girl, Scott had taken the ranch buggy out to pick him up.  When the two of them had returned, Scott and Murdoch had helped get Johnny back in to his bed.  The normally self?reliant Johnny had gone without complaint, an action that caused Murdoch concern.

Johnny was known to be short?tempered if he felt coddled.  The family had been amazed and thankful at his patience through the long treatments to restore his sight and the forced inactivity he had to be subjected to.  But when Scott had brought him back to the ranch house, he had seemed withdrawn and compliant to the point of disinterest in the world around him.

Murdoch had questioned the doctor about the noticeable difference, and had felt little reassurance at the medical man's opinion that Johnny's compliancy was due to exhaustion after his desperate pursuit after Mattie.

Murdoch was not satisfied with that explanation.  He had seen something break in Johnny this afternoon, something that only time had a hope of healing.

In the meantime he was determined to keep a close watch on his youngest son.

As he opened the door to Johnny's room, he saw Scott, his arms folded across his chest, staring out the window to the distant hills.

The young man was immobile and Murdoch could see by the set of his shoulders that he was filled with tension.  His heart skipped a beat as his eyes sought Johnny, lying quietly in the bed.  "Scott?"  He called in a hushed, urgent tone.  Murdoch's eyes flicked between his two sons.  When he noted the steady rise and fall of his chest in a regular rhythm of breathing, he released a sigh of relief.

"He's sleeping easier now, Murdoch." Scott assured his father as he turned to answer.  "He came around a little while ago.  We talked for a moment, then he fell asleep."

Murdoch silently thanked God.  He had only recently found his sons, he was not ready to lose one of them.  "How did he seem to you?"

Scott's eyes became shadowed as he watched his brother sleep.  "Hurt," he said heavy?hearted.  "And confused.  But calm.  As if everything that has happened was inevitable."  Scott turned back to the window, not quiet suppressing the irritation in his voice.

Scott's tone of voice peaked Murdoch's curiosity.  "Scott?" Murdoch questioned, coming to stand behind him.  "What is it?"

With only a moment's hesitation Scott turned toward him.  "I don't like feeling this helpless."

Murdoch watched him in confusion.  "Helpless? At what?"

Scott gestured toward Johnny.  "At not being able to do anything to help him." He quickly continued when Murdoch began to protest the notion.  "Oh, I know he'll be okay physically.  And I know Johnny well enough to know that he'll deal with Mattie's leaving in his own way. But,..." Scott's voice tightened in anger as his eyes met his father's.  "He shouldn't have to."  Murdoch remained silent.  His instinct told him Scott needed to vocalize his feelings. "When I think of the different environments that Johnny and I were raised, I feel guilty."

"Guilty?  Over what, son?"  Murdoch asked as he watched Scott take a step back to the window and make a visible effort to keep his voice low.

After a moment, Scott turned back to watch his younger brother continue to sleep peacefully.  "Over the fact that he's had to fight every inch of the way from the day his mother took him away from you."

The ache that still lingered with Murdoch over Johnny and Maria's disappearance so long ago was mixed with a sense of growing pride.  The pain and regret he carried for the years he had been without his sons would always be with him, but Scott's outburst was providing him a much clearer understanding of his oldest son.

"It just seems that he deserves to be protected and taken care of for a change."

A slow, proud smile spread across Murdoch's face as he put his hand on Scott's shoulder.  They both knew the idea that Johnny would allow, much less admit, to needing to be taken care of was an impossibility.

"You know how independent he is."

Scott's head drooped as a small grin formed on his face. "Yeah. I know.  And he'd probably laugh me from here back to Boston, if he heard me talking this way." Scott sighed.  "I guess it's just my big brother instinct coming out in me."  He turned to Murdoch with the beginning of a smile.  "I never had to worry about a brother before, much less a younger one."

Murdoch patted Scott's shoulder and nodded his understanding as the younger man bent to adjust the blanket covering his brother.  Murdoch felt inordinately pleased with his sons.

Scott belonged at Lancer and had made his decision to stay almost from the moment he had first arrived.  And no matter what happened now or in the future, Johnny would be all right.  He had people who loved him and who cared about him; a family and a place where he also belonged. Nothing could ever change that.


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