First Light
by  S.

Shivering in the darkness, Scott Lancer fervently wished that he'd brought a warmer jacket with him.  From Waterloo 's snorts of steamy air, the chilled man had the idea that his bay also wished that he was in his warm stall instead of with his owner on one of Lancer's vast ranges in the pre-dawn light.

One gloved hand patted the russet neck.  "It's alright, boy, we'll go home as soon as the sun is up over the horizon."

Waterloo snorted again as one hoof pawed at the ground.

"It is cold, isn't it?  Guess I never thought California could be this chilly, not compared to Boston .  Of course, you don't see mountains like those in Boston either."

A hint of light framed the landscape as the sun began its relentless journey above Lancer's mountains. Gentle hues of pinks and gold transformed the white-capped peaks into sparkling mounds of beauty.  Higher and higher the sphere rose, intensifying in heat and luminosity until the landscape of the great ranch was revealed in all its glory.

Lancer—a name and a dream.  Scott still couldn't believe how much his life had changed in such a short time.  The long trip west, made in discomfort and worry about what he might find at the end of the journey, had culminated in a new family and a battle to preserve this land--a battle which had ended just yesterday with the death or capture of Pardee and his men.

Battles were nothing new to the slender blond, his fighting skills sharpened in the heat of war; however, this was a different sort of fray, not of titanic armies and thousands of men, but of a handful of men against a marauding band which sought to kill and steal. 

Scott watched in awe as the radiant ball cleared the mountain tops with its life-giving brilliance.  It was so different than sunrises in Boston or on the battlefield where the coming of day meant the renewal of fighting as the haze and smoke of battle burned away.

"It's getting late, boy.  Guess we'd better be getting back to the house. See how Johnny's doing." Scott turned the bay for home and then kneed him into a canter.  Days started early on a ranch like Lancer and he didn't want Murdoch to think he wasn't willing to do his part.

After returning the bay to the stable, Scott slipped quietly into the hacienda, taking pleasure in the silence.  After the tension and terror of the preceding days, it was good to savor the peace.  Moving past Johnny's bedroom, he noticed the door was slightly ajar. Daringly, he pushed it open to check on his half-brother, who had been wounded in the fracas with Pardee.

To his surprise he found Johnny sitting up on the side of his bed, struggling to button his shirt.  "Need some help there?" he asked in a calm voice.

The sapphire eyes latched on to the other man with a question.  "You're up early?"

"Went out to look at my first dawn at Lancer."

"First?  We've been here for over a week."

"I know but this is our first day when we don't have to worry about Pardee, our first day when we've earned the right to be here."

"You really think he's gonna sign over our shares then?"  Johnny didn't look at his brother.

"Don't you?"

The dark head nodded.  "Guess I do.  Seems like he's the type to keep his word."

"So I suppose you could say this is really the first day of our new life at Lancer—yours and mine, I mean."

"Guess you could look at it that way.  Don't mean it's gonna be easy though," Johnny slowly replied.

"I'm not expecting easy.  The three of us have a lot to learn about each other."

"Yeah, I guess.  Uh, speakin' of that, thanks for what you did yesterday.  Saved my hide."

"No problem.  Just wanted the chance to get to know you, brother."

The younger man cleared his throat.  "S'pose that goes for me too.  Can see you might come in handy at times."

"I'd like to think so.  Uh, I was thinking of going in and making some breakfast since Teresa said she was going to sleep in.   If I help you get dressed, would you like to join me?"

"Don't. . .don't need no help."  Johnny winced as he struggled with another button.  "Been dressin' myself for alotta years."

"Fine.  It's your call.  How's the wound anyway?"

"Sore but I've had worse.  You really plannin' on makin' breakfast?"

"I plan to try."

"Good at shootin', ridin' and cookin'.  I'd say that's a pretty fair combination."

Scott's blue eyes shifted to his formerly-manicured hands.  "Didn't say I was good at cooking.  I thought I'd make coffee and fry up some bacon.  Would that do?"  The blond sneaked a peek at his sibling to see if there was any scorn in his eyes.

"Sounds good.  Bet Teresa's got some cookies out there in that jar too.  Kinda got a sweet tooth."  Johnny confessed in much the same tone as if he had admitted to kicking kittens.

"Too bad we never met when I was in Boston then.  SPIN was the best cookie baker ever."


"She took care of me when I was small.  If. . .if you like, I'll tell you about her sometime."

"Sure.  My mama didn't have much time for bakin', but whenever she could she'd give me a peso to buy candy."

At that moment Scott's stomach took the opportunity to growl loudly.  With an embarrassed grin on his face, the older Lancer turned for the door.  "If you're as hungry as I am, maybe I'd better get started on that bacon.  You need to regain your strength.  Something tells me Murdoch is going to make us work for our one-third each."

"Got that right.  You go on ahead.  I'll be right out."

"Fine."  Just as the blond disappeared through the door, he heard his name. Ducking back in, he asked, "Did you call me?"

"Yeah, I. . .uh, I just wanted to tell you that if you ever feel the need to get up and go look at the dawn again, I'd be glad to come with you."

"I'll hold you to that, brother."  Then Scott headed to the kitchen, whistling with contentment.




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