“How are you feeling today?” Murdoch asked as Scott slowly entered the kitchen for breakfast.
“Just fine.” Scott ground out as he eased down onto the chair. He really wished the chair was padded or at least had a cushion.
Murdoch smiled, careful not to let the chuckle out as he watched Scott squirm on the kitchen chair. “What do you have planned for the day?”
“What I have been doing…working on the books.” Scott waited for Maria to fill his coffee cup before he continued. “Where’s my delinquent brother?” Scott asked as he filled his plate with eggs and bacon.
Murdoch laughed at Scott’s question. “Well if you need anything let Walt know, I’ll be with Johnny checking the fencing in the North pasture.” Murdoch rose and headed for the door, “Sure you’re okay son?” he asked from the doorway.
“I’m fine sir, be careful.” and as a second thought occurred to him, he added, “Remember you’ll be with Johnny.” Scott smirked at the shocked look on Murdoch’s face.
While Johnny waited for Murdoch he restlessly paced between the barn and the corral. These last few days were pure hell. When would Scott make his move and what would it be? He knew his brother could be sneaky so he didn’t dare lower his guard. This waiting was driving him crazy. Even in his own room Johnny didn’t feel safe since Scott was home all day and had endless opportunities to sabotage the bedroom. At least he was sure Maria wouldn’t let Scott mess with the food so Johnny wasn’t starving. Then again maybe Scott did, last night after supper he wasn’t feeling too good. ‘Nah, just nerves.’
Finally Murdoch came out of the house and called to Johnny, “Ready son, we have a long day ahead of us.” He noticed how jumpy Johnny had been and felt sorry-well almost sorry-for the turmoil his son was going through. He wanted to laugh at Johnny but reconsidered it when he saw the look on his son’s face.
Johnny swung up on Barranca and waited for Murdoch to get on the wagon. Once they cleared the Lancer arch Johnny started to relax some but stayed alert.
He knew Scott wouldn’t hesitate to use Murdoch in his plot for revenge and as mad as Murdoch had been, well he just might go along with Scott. ‘Hell the ol’ man would probably jump at the chance to do more damage.’
As they rode toward the North pasture Johnny remembered how Murdoch had shown his displeasure at Johnny’s part in Scott’s injury. He shifted uneasily in the saddle at the memory, his ass was sore for a couple of days. Murdoch sure knew how to use his belt for something other than holding up his pants. The worst part was Murdoch made sure Sam was there to witness the punishment. Sam said it was pay back for all the times he wanted to do the same thing when Johnny didn’t follow doctor’s orders. Then just to make sure Johnny got the message Murdoch let Sam get in a few swats with the belt.
They wouldn’t have dared that if Madrid had been in control but Johnny Lancer was a different story. Neither man was intimidated by Johnny Lancer…this was not good.
Scott looked up from the books when he heard shouting by the corral. He walked slowly outside to see what was causing the uproar and saw Cip helping Murdoch from the back of the buckboard.
“Oh no, he struck again.” Scott muttered as he moved aside to let Cip help Murdoch into the great room. “Has anyone gone for Sam?” Scott asked as he followed the two men to the sofa by the fireplace. “And where is Johnny?” Scott started to laugh at Murdoch’s plight but the scowl he got from his father choked off the laugh and turned it into a cough.
The culprit was standing by the corral and debated his chance of getting to Mexico before Scott got hold of him. Johnny’s head dropped and his arms wrapped around his chest in the familiar self-hug, “Not again, I’m doomed. I wasn’t even horsing around this time, damn, fuck!!!!” He kicked at the dirt.
‘Maybe if I’m not around things will calm down sooner.’ Johnny knew he needed to get away.
Sam shook his head, “I can’t believe it, how does Johnny do it? He has managed to down both of you and obviously without much effort.” Sam chucked at the exasperated expression on Murdoch’s face.
“I am not amused Sam.” Murdoch growled “WHERE IS HE?” Then winced as the effort aggravated his injury.
“You need to calm down and let the laudanum take effect.” Scott tried to sound sympathetic and failed miserably when he couldn’t hide the grin. He knew Murdoch and Sam had a few laughs at his misery so he felt entitled to some snickers of his own.
Murdoch wasn’t buying it, “Find him, now.” He wished the drug would hurry up and take effect so he could get comfortable. Murdoch realized now just how miserable Scott had been but Scott’s laugh diminished any pity Murdoch had for his older son.
Between Sam, Scott, and Cip they managed to get Murdoch to his room and in bed. “I’ll stay till he falls asleep Scott, you go find Johnny.” Sam was worried that Johnny would leave Lancer.
So was Scott since Johnny was nowhere in sight. He hunted in the house then headed toward the barn when he saw the Cip, “Have you found Johnny?”
Cip nodded, “Si, he’s in the stall with Barranca. He is muy worried about the Patron.”
“Thanks Cip, I’ll take care of him.” Scott slowly walked to the barn and looked toward Barranca’s stall.
He didn’t see Johnny at first but then he heard a soft voice speaking Spanish and knew Johnny was talking to his horse. Scott had discovered several months ago that Johnny always talked to Barranca when he was in trouble or bothered, and right now Johnny was in trouble.
Scott leaned over the half wall of the stall and found he was facing Madrid’s gun. He should have known better than to sneak up on his brother, especially as nervous as Johnny had been lately.
“Sorry Johnny, I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.” Scott saw how distraught Johnny was knew he needed to help his brother. “Murdoch is going to be fine, sore, but fine.” Scott tried not to laugh, Johnny in this state would not find it funny. “Why don’t you come into the house and get something to eat?” Scott held out his hand and hoped Johnny would accept it.
Several moments passed then Johnny holstered his gun and reached out and grabbed his brother’s hand. “I didn’t mean for you to get hurt and Murdoch…was an accident. I swear Scott I wasn’t horsing around, it just happened.”
Scott painfully pulled Johnny to his feet and drew him into a hug, “I know Johnny and when Murdoch wakes up the three of us are going to talk.” He held Johnny at arms length, “Come on Maria has a chocolate cake in the kitchen and I’m sure we can even find a glass of cold milk for you.” Scott was really hurting now and just wanted to sit down, somewhere soft hopefully.
“I’m sorry Scott about…well you know. So go ahead and get your revenge on me, I deserve whatever you want to do to me.” Johnny waited with his head down. Nothing happened, he looked up and saw Scott smiling at him.
“Tell you what little brother, I already got my revenge.” Scott continued to smile at the confusion on Johnny’s face. “I never intended to do anything to you, I just watched you fret and worry about when it would happen. Doing nothing was my revenge, you did it to yourself.” Scott laughed at the shocked look then quickly ducked as Johnny took a swing at his head.
Scott grabbed Johnny’s arm and pulled it behind his back and shoved him into the wall, “Calm down Johnny.” Scott spoke softly and eased his grip. That move hurt but Scott couldn’t let Johnny know, he had to take control.
“Yeah, okay.” Johnny stopped resisting and Scott let go.
Johnny rubbed his shoulder and glared at Scott.
The two brothers faced off not sure what to say or do, and for several long minutes they just stared at each other. Scott was hurting and wanted to sit down but he needed to mend the rift with his brother.
Suddenly Johnny started laughing, “Dios Scott that is one hell of a way of getting revenge. Damn I’m impressed, you’re pretty smart for some gringo dandy.” Johnny draped his arm over Scott’s shoulders, “Remind me to avoid pissing you off in the future.”
“My pleasure little brother. After all I am the older, smarter, and more handsome brother.” Scott put his arm around Johnny’s waist and gave him a shove toward the barn door.
Scott, grateful for a chance to sit, watched Johnny finish off the cake and milk Maria had set out for him.
“Scott what do you think Murdoch’s going to do to me?” Johnny couldn’t help but think about the last time his father was mad at him. “Hell, I probably be eating standin’ up for a couple of days, again.”
Scott thought Johnny sounded like a little kid worrying about a spanking. For some reason Scott was comforted by that attitude at least Johnny wasn’t talking about running.
“I am sure Murdoch realizes it was an accident and I don’t think it will be a repeat of your last…experience…punishment.” Scott couldn’t stop the laugh. He remembered that both Murdoch and Sam had a hand - make that a belt – in disciplining Johnny the last time.
Sam heard voices as he headed for the kitchen and only felt a twinge of guilt as he listened to Scott tease Johnny.
Sam cleared his throat and walked into the kitchen, “Evening boys, everything okay?”
“Yeah Sam, how’s Murdoch?” Johnny sheepishly asked. “Bet he’s really mad at me.”
“Johnny I want you to go to bed, Murdoch will sleep through the night and that’s what I you to do. Now go!” Sam pointed to the back stairs he was not in the mood for an argument.
Scott smiled at Johnny and pointed to the stairs, “Better go little brother, Sam’s wearing a belt.”
“Not funny Scott.” He glared at his brother but then he looked at Sam, “Okay…okay I’m going.” Johnny got up and headed for his room.
On his way, Johnny peeked in Murdoch’s room. Reassured that the ol’ man was sleeping Johnny went to his room. He kicked off his boots not caring where they landed then pulled his shirt off and threw it on the chair. He decided to leave the leather pants on, better safe than sorry. Scott had sayings for everything and leaving his bare ass exposed may fall on the sorry side. He dropped on the bed and fell into a deep sleep.
Murdoch woke as Sam entered the room, “How are you doing this morning, much pain? You were sleeping every time I checked on you.” Sam sat in the chair and waited for Murdoch to answer.
“Better, is Johnny around, I really need to talk to him.” Murdoch shifted on the bed, winced, and tried to sit up.
Sam got up helped his patient sit as comfortably as possible considering the situation. “I’ll get him. Are you sure you are ready for this?”
“Yes, it was an accident and I need to let Johnny know I’m not angry, please get him for me.”
“Good, he has been worried about you and afraid that you were mad at him.” Sam was glad it was going to be a talk since he didn’t want Murdoch and Johnny to start fighting.
Sam knocked on Johnny’s door but there was no answer so he opened the door and peeked in. “Johnny…you awake?” When he didn’t receive an answer he walked to the bed, Johnny was deeply asleep. ‘Poor boy had worried himself into exhaustion.’ Sam quietly left the room.
“Murdoch, Johnny is still asleep I think we need to leave him alone and wait till he wakes on his own. How about some breakfast while we wait?”
“Sounds good I’m hungry and there are some good smells coming from the kitchen.” Murdoch stomach growled in acknowledgement.
“Be right back.” Sam left the room and met Scott in the hallway, “I’m getting Murdoch some breakfast, want to join us?”
“Yes, I want to talk to Murdoch before he talks to Johnny.” The two men entered the kitchen and asked Maria for three trays.
“Si medico, is el patron better this morning? An the niño?”
“They are fine Maria however Johnny is still asleep, we don’t want to wake him so maybe you could save something for later?” Sam knew Maria would make sure her niño didn’t go hungry.
When they entered the bedroom Scott put two trays on the table by Murdoch’s bed while Sam gave Murdoch his breakfast tray, “Maria said she will be checking so you better eat all of it.”
The three men ate in a comfortable silence the only interruption when Maria walked in to refilled the coffee cups. After checking to make sure the plates were empty she smiled at the men, stacked the trays and left the room.
Johnny slowly woke and groaned as he sat on the side of the bed. From the angle of the sun he had slept all night and into the afternoon. He pushed the hair from his eyes and rubbed the stubble on his chin, ‘time to face the ol’ man.’
He stumbled over his boots but instead of putting them on he kicked them out of the way and headed for Murdoch’s room.
Outside his father’s door Johnny hesitated then knocked and waited for permission to enter. His heart was pounding and he felt like he was going to throw-up. ‘Get control Madrid…no not Madrid…Lancer. He wanted to be Lancer.
“Come in.” Murdoch called out.
Johnny opened the door and stood at the threshold. He was wearing his leather pants, socks, and his hair was messed. Murdoch thought he looked so young and vulnerable so unlike the angry gunfighter he saw that first day.
“Come here Johnny I want to talk to you.” Murdoch patted the bed.
Sam and Scott moved away from the bed as Johnny slowly approached Murdoch.
“It will be alright Johnny.” Scott reassured his brother.
Sam nodded, “Go on, you two need to talk.”
Johnny stood by the bed, his head bowed, “I’m sorry Murdoch, I…”
Murdoch started to say something but Johnny interrupted.
“I swear Murdoch it was an accident, I don’t even think it was the same snake and the horses they…” Johnny went into the self-hug, “Honest, I wasn’t horsing around, hell I was still on Barranca…” Johnny took a breath. “After what happened to Scott do you think I’ll pull that stunt again? I didn’t want you hurt.”
Johnny shivered and continued, “Please Murdoch don’t run me off, I want to stay at Lancer. Even if you don’t want me for a son anymore let me be a ranch hand. I’ll work hard and won’t cause no more problems. Please give me a chance.” Finally done Johnny took a deep breath and waited for Murdoch to start yelling at him.
There was a stunned silence for several minutes no one in the room had expected what just happened.
Johnny waited for the shouting to start but nothing.
If Murdoch didn’t let him stay that meant he’d be Madrid again.
Johnny turned to leave, he needed to pack and get out of here fast but first, “Can I keep Barranca?”
Murdoch was shocked by Johnny’s words but what truly devastated him was the look on his son’s face and the pain in those sapphire blue eyes.
“Johnny please son, don’t go.” He patted the bed again.
Not knowing what to do Johnny slowly turned back to the bed but didn’t sit and kept his head down.
“I know it was an accident.” Murdoch’s voice was calm but his nerves were jumping, “Please son don’t leave, I’m not mad at you and I am definitely not running you off. You belong at Lancer, you are a Lancer.”
“Yeah?” Johnny was barely able to speak and peeked at Murdoch. His voice back Johnny asked, “You really ain’t mad at me?” Not sure this was real or just another nightmare Johnny looked to Scott and Sam.
“It’s true Johnny, have I ever lied to you?” Scott asked.
Sam nodded his head, “It’s true.”
Johnny slowly sat on the bed and looked at his father, he looked for a lie but it wasn’t there. “Murdoch, I want to stay home.”
Murdoch grabbed Johnny into his arms and hugged him, afraid to let go.
All the pent up emotions were released and Johnny slumped to his father’s chest deeply asleep.
“That’s what he did as a toddler, after all the chaos he would just fall asleep where ever his was,” Murdoch smiled, “Most of the times it was in my arms. Just like now.”
Sam and Scott walked to the bed and picked up the sleeping man.
“Put him on the bed beside me so I can watch over him. I have wanted to do that for too many years and now’s my chance.” Murdoch watched as Sam and Scott gently deposited Johnny on the bed by his father. Once down Johnny turned on his side facing Murdoch, he didn’t wake.
Scott pulled the blanket over the bare shoulders and pushed the dark hair from Johnny face. “It’s amazing how young he looks when he’s asleep.”
Sam and Scott sat on the sofa in the great room enjoying their drinks, “It’s been quite a day, Scott. By the way did you get your revenge?”
Scott laughed, “Sam I never plotted revenge, I knew Johnny would be on high-alert just waiting for me to pounce. Watching him fret and constantly watch his back was better revenge than actually doing something to him.” Scott took another sip of his drink, smiled and relaxed in the chair.
“You are really sneaky, does Johnny know? And if he does why are you still in one piece?” Sam chuckled and sipped his drink, ‘These boys keep my life from being dull.’ Sometimes he envied Murdoch and sometimes not, especially when a certain dark-haired son was on a roll. There is only so much excitement a man his age should expose himself too.
Scott snickered, “Yes, I told Johnny, he was mad at first then he started laughing. I am constantly amazed by that boy, sometimes he slips into Madrid the dangerous gunhawk, and then the next second he is Johnny Lancer a kid at heart.” Scott felt the effects of Murdoch’s good scotch that included easing the pain of his now healing injury.
“Come on Scott, I think we could all use a good night’s sleep. I want to check on Murdoch and Johnny.”
Sam and Scott went to Murdoch’s room and found him reading while Johnny slept.
“Everything okay?” Sam asked.
“Yes, the mischievous imp hasn’t moved.”
“I meant how is the pain.” Sam sound exasperated.
“Better, I think I’ll be able to sleep without your drug.” Murdoch stated with confidence.
“You sound like your younger son.”
Sam and Scott helped Murdoch shift into a comfortable position for sleeping and Johnny never moved.
Before they left Scott turned down Murdoch’s lamp.
“See you both in the morning.”
“Good night Murdoch.”
“Good night, Sir.”
With a sigh Murdoch closed his eyes ready for a good night’s sleep when he heard a soft voice.
“Who you calling an imp?”