Disclaimer: Fox owns the Lancers. *has a temper tantrum in the floor*
Synopsis: A WHN for the episode “Goodbye Lizzie”
Thanks to Kit for the beta read. I hope you all enjoy. Char ☺
Johnny came down the stairs and stood in the doorway to the great room. He watched his father; who was sitting in the dark brown leather chair facing the fireplace, the lights down low. He studied the face of his father, each line, each chiseled feature, and noted the sadness etched there. That sorrow seemed etched on his Old Man's soul as well.
Funeral’s did that to people, he thought. His father had lost a friend with Elizabeth Cramer’s death, and, truth be told, he had as well. Stepping down, he moved over to stand by his father's chair. “Scott get off okay?”
Murdoch looked up; startled. He had not heard the soft padding of his younger son’s feet as he had approached him. “Yes," he nodded, the words coming softly. He cleared his throat. "Yes, he did. He took Jenny to Cross Creek. I think he’ll stay overnight once he gets her on the train.”
Jenny Cramer … Lizzie’s daughter … she sure had fallen far from her Mama’s tree, Johnny frowned. He was glad the girl didn’t want to stay after the funeral. She was a spoiled, selfish, stuck up kind of girl and he did not like her one bit. She belonged back East … anywhere as long as she was away from him. She had looked down on her mother, as if she wasn't worth spit; had not even given Lizzie a chance after the woman had struggled so hard to give her everything. “I need a drink, you want one?”
Murdoch nodded. “That would be nice.”
Johnny walked to the bar and poured two shots of Murdoch’s best Scotch whisky; the Glenlivet. The good stuff, Scott called it. A small grin touched the youth's lips, Murdoch called it 'the nectar of the Gods'.
The smile grew as Johnny envisioned an image of a tall, lanky, sandy haired boy -- a tall boy, he reckoned -- flashed hrough his mind. One of these days, he wanted them all to go to Scotland … to have Murdoch show him and Scott where he came from, where their true heritage lay. “Here ya go,” he said as he handed his father the glass and took a seat on the large ottoman near him.
“Thank you,” Murdoch replied. “Johnny,” he started tentatively, “tell me … how did you know Lizzie? She told me when people were on that side, her side, of the law, it was like belonging to the same church." His tone was gentle. "Tell me about it.”
Johnny's head dipped, another smile coming as he snorted softly at the church comment; his fist balling up and bouncing against his leg a few times before he gathered his thoughts and was content to just rub. "Yeah, I guess it’s something like that. You travel the same roads, always kinda on the dodge from someone." His left shoulder hitched. "Sheriff’s, bounty hunters, or other guns. You kinda learn all the safe towns; the places to light. And yeah, I guess like a church … you help others when they need it.” He took a drink of the whisky as his mind started to drift back. “That’s how I first met Lizzie. I needed help and she was the only one to give it to me.”
Murdoch saw the flash of pain and something more, something undecipherable, cross Johnny’s face. “Can you tell me about it?”
Johnny shrugged, stood, and started toward the bar again. Pouring a fortifying drink he turned and headed back, this time finding his perch on the long sofa; the corner closest to his father. He learned back into the soft cushions, took another swig of his liquor, and sighed. “I was just about sixteen, maybe. I think it was around September. I’d been working a range war down near Escondido; for a rancher named Burns. You know him?”
Murdoch nodded as he leaned forward in his chair. “I know him.”
“He’s a good man,” Johnny continued. “Was bein' jerked around by a bunch of Mexican hard cases based out of Bottle Peak working for a man named Jose Guerra. Guerra thought it was his natural right to take Mr. Burns’ land seeing as how California had once been part of Mexico. So I helped out the old man. Most of Escondido had been on his side; but by the time it was over, the whole area was pretty riled up against Mexicans. After I collected my pay, I rode over toward San Marcos. Well I picked a bad day for it..." The words faded as he collected his thoughts. "San Marcos was a sleepy little town north west of Escondido. I’d ridden in with my pockets full of my pay. I got six hundred for the job … Mr. Burns had paid me an extra hundred more than we’d agreed to. But I guess after all the trouble, the folks in San Marcos weren’t too into askin' any questions. They’d heard all about the trouble in Escondido; that it was caused by renegade Mexicans. I guess they took one look at me..." he gestured towards his pants and fingered one of the conchos. "Anyway, before I had reined my pinto up to the saloon, I got a bullet in the back.
"Next thing I know, I'm slippin' out of the saddle feelin' like someone just shoved a hot poker in my back. Hit the ground like a sack full of bricks and got a mouthful of dirt for my trouble. I tried to sit up, but that didn't work so good. Felt the cold wet of my blood pooling in my shirt and seeping out onto the ground all around me." He raised his eyes to look at this father; and just as quickly looked away. "Yeah, I know they say that blood is warm, but it ain’t; not when its pouring outta you pretty fast. So there I lay, in the blood made mud, with folks walking around me and not one stopping to help me. Don’t know how long I lay there as I was going in and out of it pretty good. Then, I felt a soft hand on my head and hands turning me over.
“'Be careful, Clayt,' I heard a voice say. A female voice." He paused and stared into his glass. The laughter came then; soft. filled with something more than humor. "Thought it was an angel talkin' to me, 'cept she'd gotten my name all mixed up." He shrugged.
"When I came to, I was belly down in a bed. A proper bed, with a pillow under my head and a warm, patchwork quilt covering me. Come to find out, I’d been sleeping for three days. Losing so much blood takes a lot out of a body. Anyway, when I came to, besides bein' warm, there was a smell coming from the cabin’s kitchen, beef stew with potatoes. It smelled really good for about a minute, then my stomach heaved and there she was. Sittin' on the side of the bed holding a basin while I upchucked whatever I had left inside me. When I laid back, spent, she wiped my face with a cold cloth and patted my arm.
“ 'Are you better now';” she asked.
“Told her I was fine. I was lyin' through my teeth and she knew; and she laughed. I looked up at her through blurry eyes and she looked about like she did when I first saw her here at Lancer. Tall, thin, silver haired, a real motherly sort. Nothing at all like Mama." He shook his head, remembering. "I asked her, who the hell are you?”
"She smacked my mouth for that, just enough to let me know who was boss; and then she rubbed my back, careful of the bandages. 'I'm Lizzie,' she answered. 'And just who are you?'"
He took another swallow of whisky, his voice hoarse as he continued. “I'm Madrid, Johnny Madrid.” He risked another look at his father, he's cheeks coloring. "Kinda hoped she'd be impressed." He continued. "Anyway, she just kind of smiled. 'Well now, I've heard the name. Thought you'd be older,' she said. Next thing she just ups and says, 'I suppose you were involved in that fracas down in Escondido?''
"I knew from the way she asked, she knew damned good and well that's where I'd been, so I just gave her a polite 'Yes, ma'am'..."
"She just smiled, patted my cheek, and said, 'well, dont you worry none, boy, you're safe here with ol' Lizzie.'
This time, he drained the glass. "She stood up and walked out and I lay there thinkin', she didn’t even ask me what side of the range war I’d been on. She hadn’t cared. It didn’t seem to matter to her. After I was up and around, I found out why."
Murdoch sat back in his chair, his now empty glass on his knee. “Because she was an outlaw?”
“Yeah. But she and Clayt and Mossy, they weren’t bad folks. I stayed with ‘em a spell. About two months or so.” Johnny grinned as a quizzical look crossed Murdoch’s face. “No, I didn’t ride with ‘em on any of their jobs; don’t worry about that. Oh Lizzie asked me if I wanted to, when I was feeling stronger, but that wasn’t my way to go. She was okay with that.”
“I’m glad,” Murdoch sighed.
Johnny looked down. How much of his past life did his father know? How much did the Pinkerton’s miss? Well at least he hadn’t ever committed robbery; and for that, he knew, his father was grateful. And that was all that really mattered to Johnny. “We’d run into each other every now and then, and she was always the same ol’ Lizzie. Always nice to me, asking how I was and all. Need a refill?”
Murdoch looked at his empty glass. “No, son, I think I’ve reached my limit.”
“Yeah.” Johnny enjoyed a moment of comfortable silence with his father. Then, standing up, he took the Old Man's glass and headed back to the drink table. “No. I think you -- we -- need one more.”
“Johnny?” Murdoch said in that tone he had. The one where he dragged out the last part of his younger son’s name, the one with the slight, but clear, warning.
“No, Murdoch, one more.” Johnny poured the amber liquid and watched as it swirled in the glasses. He picked them up and handed one to his father. “To Lizzie.”
Murdoch smiled at his son, this boy of his who had such a past, a past he was glad to share even in small increments like this. His old friend had taken care of his boy, when he hadn’t been able to. Silently, he sent his gratitude to Elizabeth Cramer. He raised his glass and gently tapped Johnny’s. “To Lizzie.”