Murdoch looked down at his sleeping son, he looked so young, “but he is so young.” the distraught father whispered.
‘Why do I let myself see Madrid when I’m upset with Johnny, he is so much more than a gunfighter. He is working so hard to put his past in the past but I’m the one who can’t seem to let go.’ Murdoch sat by the bed and watched his son sleep. Shaking his head, why am I afraid to tell him how much I love him.
Sam had to operate to remove the two bullets, one in his son's side and the other in his left arm. It had been a long and painful trip back to Lancer and Sam had insisted Johnny take the laudanum before heading home. Murdoch smiled as he remembered Sam with hands on his hips and a determined scowl on his face as he stood over Johnny until the drug was swallowed. The Madrid glare didn't work on the good doctor, Murdoch chuckled at the memory.
His son was hurt, again. This time he was shot helping Val stop a bank robbery and the surviving outlaws were in jail. He was proud of his son for stepping in when the rest of the men in town hid, but that was Johnny always there for a friend or someone in need.
Murdoch took Johnny’s hand in his and stroked his son’s long fingers, he marveled at the graceful but strong hand. The hand that handled a gun with such deadly accuracy yet that same hand had gentled a wild horse, wiped the tears from Teresa’s cheek when her favorite hen died, and playfully wrestled with his brother. That same hand had gently wiped the blood away from his own face when Johnny found him on the barn floor after a run-in with a bale of hay.
A moan from the bed drew Murdoch from his daydreaming, “Son?” He leaned over and pushed the hair from the sweaty forehead, “Wake up Johnny, you’re home, safe.”
Johnny slowly opened his eyes and whispered, “Hey Murdoch, you okay?”
“Yes Johnny I’m fine, but you’re the one hurt, how do you feel?” Murdoch smiled, “And please don’t tell me you’re fine.”
“Okay, I ain’t fine, hurt like hell. Thirsty.” He tried to sit up but Murdoch reached out and held him down.
“Stay down, son, if you rip out any stitches Sam will have your hide.” Murdoch was relieved that Johnny obeyed and reached over for the glass of water on the bedside table and held it to Johnny’s lips.
“Try to rest, do you need some more…” Murdoch didn’t finish the sentence when he saw Johnny’s frown, the boy hated losing control. “Okay no medicine but you will have to drink Maria’s tea.”
“Yeah, okay, ya know that stuff tastes like sh...bad.” Johnny caught himself.
Murdoch chuckled at Johnny, “I know son but it helps, your fever is down.”
“What’s wrong Murdoch?” Johnny watched his father.
How does he do that Murdoch wondered, his son was too good at reading people.
“Come on ol’ man, what did I do wrong this time?” Johnny wanted to get the argument over with, he hated having it hang over his head.
“Johnny you didn’t do anything wrong, you and Val saved the bank money while the rest of the men stayed behind closed doors. I am proud of you for helping Val.” Murdoch hoped his pride was evident in his voice.
“You are?” Johnny didn’t know how to accept that statement.
“Yes son, I am very proud of you. I know I haven’t told you, I’m not very good at expressing my feelings but…” Murdoch swallowed. “I want you to know how much it means to me to have you home. All those lonely years, I never got to tell you…” Murdoch looked into his son’s eyes, “I love you Johnny, I always have and I always will, son.” At last he said it and it felt wonderful.
Johnny was stunned but he couldn’t believe how good it felt hearing those words from his father.
“Well ol’ man…” Johnny smiled at Murdoch, “I love you too, Papi.”
The end-no just a fresh start.