Johnny stretched and rubbed his eyes and wished he could just stay in bed and enjoy the soft mattress. When he was a kid the softest place he had ever slept was a hayloft in the livery stable. The old man who owned the place felt sorry for the scruffy kid and would let Johnny sleep in the loft when his mama chased him out.
‘Hey’ Johnny remembered. They had big plans because Murdoch had given them permission to take a few days off.
Johnny jumped out of bed and grabbed his pants, as he pulled them on he headed for Scott’s room. Buttoning his pants as he opened Scott’s door he called out, “Scott up and at it, we got things to do.”
“Go away!” the muffled sound came from under the quilts that seemed to be moving on the bed.
Johnny tip toed to the bed, grabbed the quilt and yanked it back at the same time he leaned down “GET UP” he yelled at his brother.
Scott jumped at the scream in his ear and pulled the quilt from his very annoying brother. “Will you go away and let me sleep? Scott growled at Johnny.
Not about to accept defeat Johnny grabbed the quilt again and threw it on the floor and pulled on Scott’s arm to drag him out of the nice warm, soft bed.
“Alright-alright, give me a minute!” Scott didn’t attempt to hide the annoyance in his voice. “You are a pest!” He sat up and dropped his legs to the side of his bed and rubbed his face then pushed the hair from his eyes, “Why are you up, Murdoch gave us some time off?”
“I know and we are going to the north line shack and do some hunting, remember?” Johnny turned and headed for his room, “Don’t go back to sleep.” he called over his shoulder.
Scott shook his head and smiled at his brother’s bare back, it never ceased to amaze him how the ex-gunfighter could turn into such a kid at times, a very annoying kid.
Murdoch was sitting at the kitchen table waiting for Maria to serve breakfast while he sipped his coffee. Enjoying the warmth of the kitchen and the lull before the storm when his son’s would join him for breakfast. He had to admit to himself he preferred the noise to the silence of all those lonely years without his boys.
He smiled when he heard Johnny’s spurs jingling and his son’s bantering as they came down the back stairs. How he wished he could have watched his boys grow up together, they had all missed so much.
When they entered the kitchen both boys stopped and looked at Murdoch. Usually he would be done with breakfast and out giving orders by now so they were surprised to see him sitting at the table and sipping coffee.
Scott recovered first, “Good morning sir.” He slid into a chair and smiled as Marie poured a cup of coffee for him.
“Mornin’ Murdoch, what you got planned while Scott and me are gone?” Johnny gave Maria his winning smile and pushed his cup toward her for some coffee.
Murdoch smiled at his sons, “I was thinking about making it a family outing. What if I go with you on this hunting trip?” He held his breath and waited for an answer.
Scott looked like he was considering it and Johnny looked like he had been gut shot.
Scott and Johnny looked at each other then turned to Murdoch.
A shocked silence reigned for a few moments finally broken when Maria placed the eggs, bacon, and biscuits on the table.
“I understand you would probably prefer it be just the two of you.” Murdoch reached for the eggs and began filling his plate.
Johnny was amazed that Murdoch would want to get away from his precious ranch. He was also positive the three of them on a hunting trip was NOT a good idea.
Scott on the other hand thought the three of them might build some bridges on this trip. “Well I think it’s a very good idea. How long will it take for you to pack?”
Johnny stared at Scott with his mouth open and a fork full of eggs poised in midair.
“It won’t take long.” Murdoch couldn’t hide his pleasure. “I’ll be ready before you two finish eating.” He forgot about his breakfast all he could think about was spending a few days with his boys. Murdoch pushed back from the table and smiled as he headed up the back stairs to pack.
“What the hell was that all about?” Johnny couldn’t believe what he had heard. He dropped his fork as he jumped to his feet to face his big brother, “Fuck, Scott… Yeow!” Johnny yelped as Maria’s wooden spoon connected with his exposed backside.
Johnny turned toward his attacker and rubbed his butt while he glared at Maria.
“You show your papa and hermano respect niño.” Maria shook her spoon in Johnny’s face.
“Okay…okay, lo se Maria, lo se.” Johnny carefully sat down and gave his brother one of his famous world-class pouts.
Scott enjoyed it when his brother slipped into his six year old temper tantrums, so he just smiled at Johnny.
Scott saw Maria wink at him before she left them to finish their breakfast.
“Why did you do that, I thought this was a get away? I could stay here and get yelled at.” Johnny was not happy with his annoying, big brother and now his butt hurt.
“Johnny this is a chance for the three of us to get to know each other away from ranch duties. He is the ‘tune caller’ for running Lancer but this will be a father and sons hunting trip.” Scott was using his best Lt. Lancer voice. “Give it a chance. You might even have a good time.”
His brother didn’t look convinced so Scott tried again, “It will be alright if you give it a chance. If things get too bad take Barranca and go to Green River for…” Scott was in ‘diplomat mode’ and he feared Johnny might just do that anyway.
No longer hungry Johnny stomped up the back stairs to get his saddlebags. “Fuck…fuck…fuck,” he mumbled as he went to his room.
Scott looked toward Maria and shook his head, “I’m sorry you went to all this trouble and no one ate.”
“I will pack the bacon and biscuits for the ride Senor Scott.” Maria smiled at him, “You are a good hijo.” She patted his hand “Juanito needs time he loves his papa but it is hard for him.”
“I know they are both so stubborn.” Scott smiled at Maria and headed for the back stairs to get his saddlebags.
In his room Murdoch finished his packing and wondered if maybe he had made a mistake inviting himself on the hunting trip. He wanted to be with his sons, he had a good relationship with Scott but Johnny… His wild child, he didn’t know how to reach Johnny. When he told them at breakfast he wanted to go along, Johnny looked like he was ready bolt. ‘Did his younger son hate him, blame him for his hard life, Johnny said he didn’t. Maybe he just didn’t want to be around his father? No, it can’t be that either or Johnny would have left Lancer.’
‘I won’t let Johnny get to me, no fighting, and I won’t put Scott in the middle. I am going to make this work, we are going to be a family.’ Murdoch told himself as he grabbed the saddlebags and headed for the kitchen.
‘Hope Maria has something I can eat while I ride.’
In his room Johnny stood at the window and watched Barranca as he pranced and shook his golden head. ‘How the hell am I going to get through this mess? Me and the Ol’ Man will be at each other’s throats and Boston will be playing peacemaker, fuck.’ He looked back to his bed and the saddlebags, ‘I really do want to stay, why does it have to be so hard with Murdoch? It’s Madrid, guess he just can deal with my past. Why can’t he see I’m Madrid and Lancer that’s who I am and I can’t change it. Scott accepts me why can’t my own father?
Is Scott right, can we make it work? I want it to work. Guess I’ll go along with Scott and try to give it a chance.’
He shook his head, walked over to his bed, and picked up his saddlebags. ‘Maybe Boston will keep us from killing each other long enough to be a family’. Johnny took a deep breath, opened the door and headed for the kitchen.
Maybe Maria will give me a biscuit and bacon to eat during the ride.
In his room Scott stood staring at the saddlebags laying on the bed, ‘what was I thinking’. He moved into the room and sat in the chair by the window, ‘how am I going to make this work? And why do I always think I have to make things right? Either we are going to be a family and make this work or we may as well go our separate ways.’ Scott shook his head, ‘no I am not giving up I want to be at Lancer and I know Johnny does too now we just have to prove it to Murdoch. This is going to work.’
Resolved that this trip would make them a family Scott got up, grabbed the saddlebags and headed for the kitchen.
‘Hope Maria has something I can eat on the ride.’
Murdoch sat in the kitchen and ate the breakfast Maria had kept warm for him. While he waited for his sons, he committed to making this trip turn them into a family. He was going to show his sons how much he wanted them at Lancer and he would make sure they knew their father loved them.
Johnny’s approach was announced by the jingle of his spurs.
When he entered the kitchen Maria placed his breakfast on the table and pointed to the chair with the spoon in her other hand. He knew she was more than ready to smack his backside if he didn’t obey. Johnny knew from experience don’t cross an angry Mexican woman.
“Well at least we won’t ride on empty.” He nodded thanks to Maria.
“Johnny you can still say no and it can be just you and Scott.” Murdoch hoped he didn’t sound desperate.
“Naw Murdoch it’s good the three of us get away, Scott’s right.” Johnny hoped he sounded sincere.
Maria placed the final reheated breakfast on the table as Scott entered the kitchen. “Thank you Maria.” He smiled at the three occupants in the kitchen and ate his breakfast.
‘We are going to make this work if I have to kill both of them.’ he smiled at the thought.
“This is going to be a great trip and I think we should also take some fishing poles in case we miss out on game.” Scott suggested.
“No chance Boston, I ain’t fishing. I’ll let you and Murdoch get the fish.” Johnny grinned.
He enjoyed listening to his sons tease each other, “Let’s go boys it’s a long ride.” Murdoch couldn’t stop the smile as he stood and headed for the door. He was anxious to start this trip toward making the three of them into a family.
Johnny kissed Maria on the cheek and Scott grabbed the lunch bags.
“Right behind you.” two voices called after Murdoch.
Scott and Johnny grinned at each other and followed their father out the door.
Maria smiled as she watched her three men leave ‘this is good.’