"For the Best"- Challenge story
by  S.

The tall, blond Lancer son worked carefully in the stable. He enjoyed working with horses even if it did mean endless repairs on bridles, saddles and the myriad paraphernalia that a horse needed on a huge cattle ranch like Lancer.

The quiet sounds of his horse nibbling at bits of hay and the eager lapping of water from the pail were oddly soothing. During his service in the cavalry, he had truly discovered the value of a good horse. There were some horses that were just not suited to life in a wartime army. They didn't have the temperament, but sometimes their riders would find that out the hard way.

Scott had ridden several different mounts during the war, but had not actually lost one to shellfire. Secretly, he was glad that none of his horses had perished. He knew that some soldiers looked upon the loss of a horse as almost a badge of honor. Men like Nathan Bedford Forrest and George A. Custer were reputed to have lost more than a dozen and yet lived to tell the tale.

No, Scott Lancer preferred a living, breathing animal. Sometimes, he would indulge himself in a flying gallop across the range. Indeed, that was how he thought of it-- as the closest thing to flying.

Lost in these thoughts, the young man didn't notice the small figure who had entered the stable. "Scott?"

Turning to face the brown-haired woman, he automatically smiled.  "Sorry, Teresa, I didn't hear you come in."

"That's okay. I just wanted to ask you something."

"Sure. What is it?"

"Uh, could you...would you be able to take me for a short visit to San Francisco?"

For a moment, the handsome man was puzzled. "I thought Murdoch usually takes you there when you want to visit friends?"

The young woman looked down at her feet. In a hesitant voice, she replied, "This is a secret. I...I don't want him to know why I'm going."

Now it was concern that flooded the slender figure. "Teresa, what's wrong? What is it you don't want Murdoch to know?"

Teresa looked up at the blond, her eyes wide with pleading. "Promise me you won't tell him?"

"Of course not. Are you planning to meet someone he doesn't...approve of?"

The dark-haired woman nodded.

"Teresa, it...it isn't a man, is it?"

Youthful laughter rang out. "No, Scott, I'm not meeting a man. I want to see my mother."

The relief that the older Lancer son felt about Teresa not being in a romantic tryst was quickly overwhelmed by his dismay at her disclosure.

"Angel Day? You're going to meet her?"

"Yes, she's now living there and has invited me to stay with her for a few days so we can actually get to know each other."

"But how? I mean how has she been in contact with you?"

"She sent me a letter which Murdoch ripped up. I found the pieces with her address so I wrote back to her. Now she sends any letter to my friend, Mary, who gives them to me."

"I see."

"Do you? I know Murdoch doesn't like her and maybe he has good reason, but she is my mother and I think I have the right to know her better."

"Teresa, I'm not disputing that, but after what happened the last time she was here...."

"I know. What she did was...painful, but I think it was mostly because of Carl. People do strange things to keep someone they love--and yet in the end, she helped me."

Remembering back to the fatal confrontation on the road to the Nevada/California border, Scott Lancer knew that there were still many unanswered questions about Angel Day.

"You're right, Teresa, I believe she realized that taking you away from Lancer was wrong and she tried to make amends."

"Now that some time has passed, I've been able to think more clearly about all of this. I want to ask her about my father and why she left. We really did not have the chance to talk as mother and daughter and I want that chance."

"Teresa, you do realize that whatever she tells you might not be...the truth?"

An affectionate smile came to the curved lips. "Oh, Scott, I'm not that naive. I'm sure she won't be entirely honest with me, but then who is? After all, the two men I loved the most lied to me about her dying."

"I'm sure they thought it for the best."

"Well, I think I'm old enough now to decide what is best for me. Ruefully, she added, "But I don't want to hurt Murdoch so I need your help to get to San Francisco. Will you help me?"

"Yes, I will. Don't worry, I'll think up a plausible story to tell Murdoch."

Teresa reached up to give Scott a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you. I knew you would understand."

"There's just one thing. Why did you ask me instead of Johnny?"

"I thought about it, but he's still coming to terms with his feelings about his mother and her place at Lancer. I didn't want to open another wound. On the other hand, I thought that you, especially, would understand why I need to do this."

The blond Lancer stood there for a long heartbeat. "I guess I do.  There were times when I was growing up that I would have given anything to have even one day with my mother. All I knew about her was what Grandfather told me. I'd stare at her photograph, almost willing her to speak to me."

Teresa reached out to take Scott's hand. "We can't get back those lost years, but I don't want to wake up one day and regret that I never took the time to know my mother. Just as you and Johnny came to Lancer to reclaim your relationship with Murdoch, I would like to build a relationship with Angel."

Seeing the question in the cerulean eyes, Teresa reassured the young man. "No, Scott, I don't intend to stay with her. My home is Lancer. You three are my family, but I would like to think I have enough forgiveness in my heart to give that lonely woman a chance."

Scott pulled Teresa into a hug. "Angel Day is a very lucky woman. I hope both of you find what you need. Now let me go inside and start softening up Murdoch. He can be rather irascible, you know."

"You're telling me. You forget I've known him for a long time. He can be so gentle and affectionate, but what a temper!"

"Reminds me of Johnny!"

Just then, the dark-haired Lancer entered the stable. "What reminds you of me, Big Brother?"

"Oh, Teresa and I were just discussing Murdoch's temper."

"Yeah, he has a rip-snorter."

"And you don't?"

"Me? I'm as meek as a lamb."

Teresa snickered. "Well, then Johnny dear, you won't mind helping wash windows later today, will you?"

"Windows? Uh...well...you see...Murdoch told me to do some branding today so I just came in to get Barranca."

Two pairs of eyebrows arched in question at the younger Lancer.

"Yeah, that's it--I've got branding to do." Quickly, the gunfighter saddled the palomino and made his escape, but Johnny could still hear the laughter from the stable as he rode away.

"Well, that's one way to get him to do the branding," remarked the blond.

"Yes, especially since I finished the windows yesterday," smirked the young woman in reply.

Putting his left arm around Teresa's slim shoulders, Scott led the young woman towards the hacienda. "Well then, I'd say that Johnny's timely entrance was for the best."

 With that Teresa had to agree.


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