Disclaimer:- I don’t give a Good Goddamn what FOX thinks, they abandoned the Lancers and we keep ‘em alive in peoples minds.
Author’s note: These are the same ‘Lancer’s’ you’ll find in Kits stories in that Johnny has just turned nineteen and Scott is twenty five. This story also contains references to Kit’s stories i.e. Busted and The Unkindest Cut amongst others…Well shoot me… I like her thinking!
Beta’d By SF. Thanks Mary for working your usual magic and for making my little story that much better, and also for your continued support.
My thanks must also extend to Kit because your influence and your take on the ‘Lancers’ is clearly evident in my story.
I hope you all enjoy.
Murdoch, Scott, Johnny and several of the Lancer hands were out on the range moving a large herd of cattle down from the high ground in preparation for the big drive in a month’s time. All was going smoothly but the work was hard, dusty and hot. The ground was so dry and the air so thick with dust, they had to wear their bandanas over their mouths and noses to help them breathe.
Murdoch was doing a sterling job of directing his men; or as Johnny often called it, ‘barking out orders’. His youngest wasn’t very good at following orders and to Murdoch’s frustration, often did his own thing. He was going to have a word with the boy later on in the day. It didn’t look good that his own son ignored him in front of the men and he decided he and his youngest were going to have a little discussion concerning his wilful disobedience.
He pulled up on the hill and watched the drive from above, his eyes falling on his oldest son. Scott was doing a pretty good job considering that less than four months ago, he’d never driven a single cow. He smiled to himself, proud of his oldest son’s achievements. He’d come a long way since his arrival from Boston. He’d also come a long way with the way he dealt with having a younger delinquent brother to watch out for as well; Murdoch was willing to credit his oldest son with that. The Bostonian certainly wasn’t expecting to find out he had a younger brother when he’d first arrived but he had taken to it like a duck to water.
Murdoch had to smile over the unique pair: the ‘proper Bostonian’ and the ‘former pistolero’. Thank God, Murdoch thought. Opposites tended to attract, it was certainly true of his boys. They couldn’t be more different if he had planned it that way. It was rare to see one without the other. They were inseparable with Johnny clearly looking up to his older sibling. Scott certainly had a way, with his younger brother, which Murdoch couldn’t deny. No one would have believed it, if they hadn’t seen it with their own eyes. Johnny had been so arrogant and insolent and in many ways still was, especially with people outside his family, but with Scott, he simply folded when things got serious.
Upon thinking about him his eyes scanned the horizon and fell on his reckless younger son, Johnny. He sighed out loud. That boy never does anything by halves. Giving him credit where credit was due, Johnny worked hard but he also played hard and it was the playing that Murdoch worried about. His youngest boy could find trouble where most could not and there didn’t seem to be a time when Johnny went into Green river that he didn’t end up either in a cell for the night or with at least a black eye.
Murdoch had been very glad when the Cattleman’s Association had hired Val Crawford as sheriff of Green River but it had been a real shock to discover Johnny and the man had a history. Of course neither one was willing to share the details of why they were so close, but it was very apparent to everyone they were. Truth be told, it infuriated Murdoch, not to mention caused feelings of jealousy, that someone who’d clearly been of some influence to his youngest, simply refused to share that information with him. ‘It’s the boy’s story to tell Murdoch and he’ll tell you when he’s ready’ was all the lawman would say if Murdoch tried asking. Val it seemed was as stubborn as he was.
In no time at all the lawman proved his worth though, getting Johnny out of one scrape after another and it became a huge relief for the rancher, that Val had his son’s back whilst he was in town. Murdoch had confiscated his son’s gun after he’d been put on probation for some rather exuberant hell raising and fighting. Using Californian law and declaring his son a minor, the judge decreed he would be in his father’s custody. Johnny’s gun was then removed from his possession, much to his disgust but he didn’t dare challenge his father.
Murdoch’s reflective mood continued as he considered how much his son had changed. He had to admit Johnny had taken to ranching as if he’d been raised on the ranch. He was obviously familiar with droving and he could ride like the wind. As it should have been, he thought sadly, his face suddenly looked weary, as it should have been for both my sons. He let out a deep sigh that morphed into a gasp, his eyes becoming wide as his wild son weaved dangerously in and out of the moving cattle. Johnny was talented and his riding abilities were second to none. He had to admit the boy was in complete control of his horse. He moved in one fluid motion as he executed a perfect turn towards a group of cows breaking from the herd.
Murdoch’s smile returned. Johnny was poetry in motion. Watching his youngest child at work brought a certain kind of joy he never thought he’d have. Johnny, he mused, had the grace of a ballerina and everything seemed effortless to him. Murdoch had forgotten what it was like to be young and fearless, but his youngest son seemed to remind him nearly every day.
All in all, he couldn’t be prouder of his sons. Of course, Scott had an easier time settling in, but he was a grown man and more mature in his ways. Johnny was still young and untamed, with a lot of growing up to do, and he had a penchant for mischief that was unmatched by anyone in the valley, but watching him at work Murdoch began to realize he was settling down to ranch life.
He sucked in a lungful of air as he saw Johnny cut his horse in front of the herd; in front on their horns! What the Hell is that boy thinking? Murdoch Lancer seethed as he kicked Charlemagne into action and rode purposefully towards his crazy son. His intention was to give him a piece of his mind but he never made it.
Charlemagne’s right front leg went down a hole and Murdoch was thrown forwards and losing his footing, he fell off to the side pulling on the horse’s mouth and landing hard on the ground. Unfortunately, his actions made the animal lurch impossibly, finally rolling over the stricken man.
Now, Murdoch Lancer was a big man but his horse was bigger and Murdoch felt an instant pain in his chest as he was crushed beneath the animal. Several of his ribs seemed to give way and he was momentarily stunned. He lay on his side gasping for air and the world around him seemed to slow down, sight and sound coalesced into a loud bright blur that burst into blackness.
Johnny looked up his eyes filling with horror as he saw his father disappear beneath his horse. “Pa!” he screamed a split second before Scott did.
Both boys thundered to their father’s side in a billowing cloud of dirt and dust. Johnny got there first and dismounted while his horse was still running. In a complete panic, he fell to his knees at his father’s side, his heart constricted by the icy grip of fear.
Scott arrived mere seconds later and upon seeing the look on Johnny’s face, swallowed his own apprehension. “Keep calm brother,” he soothed. He’d just witnessed his reckless brother jump from his still moving horse. He had to take control. Lieutenant Scott Garret Lancer slipped effortlessly into military mode; giving orders to the men to bring the wagon and send for Sam.
The normally unflappable Johnny Madrid Lancer was in a pure panic. He hadn’t realized how much his old man had come to mean to him and seeing his father prostrate on the ground and in pain, unnerved the boy.
Murdoch was like a mountain to him, unmoveable and sturdy as granite, all powerful. From the very beginning he’d been and was still in complete awe of his father. Gazing upon his injured and motionless body now he looked like an old man, and the old man was his father. His father, Jesus!
“Pa, Jesus, Pa, are ya alright?” he implored, cradling his father’s head in his hands. His eyes were wide as he yelled at his older brother, “Scott, we gotta’ get Sam!”
“I know, Johnny, I know, sshhh, calm down. I’ve already asked Walt to ride to town to fetch him. Try to relax little brother. I’ve sent Frank to the house to bring the wagon. We’ll get Murdoch home, don’t worry, little brother,” he said trying to reassure him.
“I think it’s his ribs, Scott and he’s busted his arm too…Jesus Christ, Scott, he’s got a pretty big lump on his head too…look!” Johnny’s voice quivered slightly, almost breaking.
“Easy, Johnny, take it easy,” Scott soothed. “We’ll get him home and Sam will sort him out, you’ll see.”
Murdoch began to stir as he returned to consciousness and instantly Johnny was on him. “Jesus, old man, keep still, ya’ ain’t gonna’ move, now stay put!” he ordered.
“Mmmargh!” Murdoch moaned; wincing as he tried to move his broken arm to rub at his head. “B..b..boys w…w..what h..h..happened?” The world was spinning, as he tried to focus his eyes but he could see his youngest son’s face never the less.
“Sshhhh... Murdoch, your horse went down a hole and lost its footin’. You went down hard, Pa; your horse rolled on ya.” Murdoch tried to move again. “Keep still, will ya’? Jesus, Scott, he’s so stubborn!”
Scott’s eyebrows shot upward, disappearing into his hairline at the irony of Johnny’s statement. He’s not the only one, he thought.
Johnny didn’t know how to react. He’d never felt so scared in all his life. He also knew if his father wanted to get up there would be no way in hell he’d manage to stop him. Murdoch almost had a foot on him in height and he was at least sixty pounds heavier. Not for the first time, did he curse his Mexican heritage.
“For fuck’s sake, will ya just keep still?!” he demanded, fear making his tone harsh and unyielding.
For as much as Murdoch was in pain, he didn’t much care for the language coming out of his son’s mouth. “John!” he admonished through clenched teeth.
Johnny’s face flushed and he looked sheepish. “Sorry, Murdoch, but please, please lie still will ya?”
The boy was almost begging and even though he was in pain, Murdoch had to chuckle. The moment he did however he regretted it. “Now... you... know… how... I... feel... when... you …get … hurt …don’t you… young man,” he gasped.
“Yeah,” Johnny chuckled. It seemed they were more alike than he’d ever imagined. “And I ain’t gonna forget it neither, but please, Pa, stay still, until we can get you into a wagon.”
“Ok, son,” Murdoch agreed. The word Pa coming from his youngest, didn’t go unnoticed by the oldest Lancer and despite his obvious pain, his heart soared at the use of the affectionate term.
Scott was busy directing the crew causing Johnny to giggle nervously as he called his father’s attention to it. “Look at ol’ Boston, Pa, he’s callin’ the tune.”
“As only he could,” Murdoch breathed heavily though grinning slightly; trying desperately to reassure his youngest son he was alright, when in fact he knew darn well he wasn’t. His ribs were certainly busted and at least one, he thought, had pierced his lung. He found breathing very sore and more importantly, hard. He knew he needed Sam and soon.
In less than half an hour Frank had returned with the wagon. Jelly had made a bed out of straw in the back. He must have driven the wagon hard, thought Scott as he saw it arrive. He was also relieved to see Jelly there, too.
“Thanks, Jelly, for doing this,” Scott said looking at the comfortable make shift bed Jelly had masterfully created for Murdoch.
“Anytime, Scott, anytime,” Jelly said. “Now let’s get your Pa into the back,” he said, and then turning to Johnny, he asked. “Is Johnny ok?”
Scott smiled at the question; trust Jelly to be concerned for Johnny as well. He had a special bond with his little brother and Scott knew it; indeed was glad of it at times. “He’s fine, Jelly, or at least he will be when we get Murdoch home,” he said jerking his head in his father’s direction.
Jelly nodded. Let’s get to it then, Scott.”
Scott nodded as he sized up the best way to accomplish the task with the least amount of pain for his father.
Carefully they manoeuvred the large man into the back of the wagon and got him settled. Scott jumped up front and took hold of the reins, knowing full well his little brother would want to be with their father. A grin grew on his lips when he saw Jelly move close to Johnny.
“Go carefully, Scott.” Johnny cautioned.
“I will, Johnny.” Scott replied, his tone announcing he was in control. “Haw,” he called and the horses began their slow pace for home.
Jelly was fussing as only he could. “It’ll be alright, son,” he soothed Johnny, and then turning to the older Lancer he scolded. “What in tarnation have ya been doin’, boss? Ya ain’t no spring chicken, ya know. Hell yer’ as bad as this youngun here,” he sassed pointing at Johnny.
“I’m fine, Jelly, just get me home,” Murdoch hissed through clenched teeth.
Jelly could see Murdoch was anything but fine. His face was deathly pale and the older man knew he was bleeding inside.
Johnny saw it too. “Ya ain’t fine at all old man,” he yelled, fear making his temper rise.
“Nope, he ain’t, Johnny yer right, but he will be. Sam’ll take care of him, you’ll see.”
Johnny nodded. “He keeps on tellin’ me he’s fine but I know he ain’t, Jelly.”
Not quite believing their ears, Jelly and Scott stared hard at the youngest Lancer. There was, it seemed something very wrong with this picture!
“Well iffen that ain’t the pot callin’ the kettle black,” Jelly finally snickered.
Johnny was not amused and his youth shone through. “Shut up, Jelly! Just shut the Hell up!” he spat, turning on the older man.
“Johnny,” Scott scolded.
Jelly loved Johnny but he wasn’t going to allow him to behave disrespectfully and puffing himself up he yelled. “Don’t you’ be tellin’ me to shut up, ya’ little whipper snapper, you ain’t too old for me to turn ya’over mah’ knee ya’ know.”
Johnny scoffed at the notion. “Yeah right!”
At that Murdoch lifted his head and took control of the situation, scolding his younger son. “Johnny behave,” he hissed between pants of pain. “Maybe… Jelly might not be… able …but… I certainly… am. Keep… that in mind… if you sass… him again…John.” He paused and Johnny frowned. “Now, I’ll be fine, stop… worrying and biting everyone’s …head off… Johnny.”
Johnny felt bad. “Sorry, Pa, but….”at a frown from his father he stopped protesting and glanced at Jelly. “Um sorry, Jelly…” he dipped his head and peered at his friend through his long lashes. He knew he’d been out of line. Seeing his father injured had hit him hard and he was worried sick. For once he knew what it was like to worry about someone you loved.
Jelly understood. He couldn’t be angry with Johnny for long, never could and he patted him on the back. “It’s alright, son, yer just upset fer’ yer’ daddy is all. I understand.”
That embarrassed Johnny as well. “I ain’t all that upset, Jelly, jeez... I can handle this.”
Scott grinned. He was worried too, but his little brother’s reaction had been a surprise. It seemed he cared a lot more than he let on.
“Sure ya’ can, son. Sure ya’ can,” Jelly replied as he rubbed Johnny’s back.
The journey was fraught with tension as Scott tried hard to avoid holes and Johnny ranted. Despite Johnny’s concerns that they were taking too long, soon enough they were approaching the Lancer arch. Scott was the first to see Maria and Teresa waiting for them. But it was Johnny’s sharp eyes that spied Walt with Sam and he yelled to his older brother. “Scott, Sam’s here! Great we need Sam, huh?” His nervousness was clearly apparent.
“Yes, I see him, Johnny,” said Scott smiling, amused at the way worry loosened his little brother’s tongue. Scott realized when it came to his father for all Johnny’s bravado, the boy simply folded! His face was a picture of concern and his mood wasn’t too great either. Scott smirked as he listened to his little brother actually scold their father and right at that moment he knew Murdoch was too sore to say anything. If the situation hadn’t been so serious Scott would have burst out laughing and Jelly, it seemed would have been a close second.
“Patron, you are hurt, what happened?” Maria asked as she approached the wagon, rolling up her sleeves in anticipation. “We thought when Frank rode in that Johnny had been hurt…again! But to find you…” she crossed herself.
Murdoch growled as Johnny told the sorry tale, almost proudly and with a hint of censure for his father’s actions, but still full of concern.
Sam approached and when he saw Murdoch’s colour; the way he was struggling to breath, he quickly sprang into action. There wasn’t a moment to spare and he took complete control, ordering, “Get him into the kitchen and onto the table. Maria, get towels and hot water.” He was barking out orders and people were running in all directions, immediately doing as they were directed.
Soon Murdoch was deposited onto the kitchen table and it wasn’t long before they had him ready for Sam. The first thing the old Doctor did was shoo everyone out of the kitchen, all except Maria.
“Sam!” Johnny complained. “Can’t I just…”
“No, Johnny, you can’t, now shoo!” he pushed the boy back and Scott grabbed his brother’s collar, pulling him into the hallway.
“Let Sam do his job, Johnny, come on, little brother,” he encouraged.
Together they paced the hallway, both young men taking turns comforting Teresa. Jelly, Cip and Elena were also there and all waited to hear how Murdoch Lancer was.
It was a good hour and a half later when Sam finally appeared. He had Murdoch’s blood on his overalls and Johnny winced, paling slightly.
“Well?” the youngest Lancer growled.
Sam’s eyebrows arched upward at Johnny’s attitude. Just like his father! He thought, aloud he said, “I beg your pardon, young man. If you’re asking me how your father is, try asking me a little more respectfully!” Sam had a fondness for Johnny but he wasn’t going to tolerate the youth’s insolence, no matter how worried he was.
Johnny dropped his chin to his chest, breaking eye contact, yielding to Sam’s authority. “Um... sorry, Sam, I’m just worried is all. Didn’t mean to snap at ya’.”
Sam smiled and walked over to Johnny, patting him on the shoulder. “Of course you are, Johnny.” Sam smiled. “I’m sure you’ve all been worried,” he said turning around to the small group huddled in the hall. Murdoch’s boys were concerned with his wellbeing. It had been a long time coming but it was nice to see never the less.
“Your father’s going to be fine, boys. He’s broken his arm, which I have set and splinted, but it’s the broken ribs that were causing me the problems. I had to perform surgery; one had punctured his lung…”
Johnny jerked his head. “But he’s gonna be alright, ain’t he?” The boy was practically begging.
Sam held onto Johnny’s shoulders. “Yes, he is, now try not to worry, Johnny. He’ll be fine with rest and he’s sleeping now. That’s the best medicine for him. I’ll leave you some laudanum for him, Scott. He’ll need to take it regularly for the pain and no arguments.”
Johnny actually grinned.
“He also had a pretty nasty bump on the head, but your father’s a tough old devil and he’ll be fine with rest.”
Johnny’s grin was now even wider. “Thanks, Doc.”
“Anytime, my boy, now go into the kitchen and see for your selves, but don’t try to awaken him; he’s sedated,” Sam warned.
Scott and Johnny nodded and along with Teresa, Jelly, Cip and Elena, they filed into the kitchen.
Cipriano and Frank busied themselves making a stretcher to carry the Lancer patriarch to his room upstairs. Scott and Johnny quickly followed Cip and Frank as they carefully carried their father upstairs, laying him gently on his bed.
Murdoch was motionless; his eyes occasionally fluttering much like Johnny’s did when he was dreaming. Both boys and Teresa smiled at one another. Murdoch was home and he was going to be alright and life was good.
“He looks kinda’ peaceful, huh?” Johnny whispered, looking to his older brother for more reassurance. He got it from his new sister.
“He’ll be fine, Johnny, Sam wouldn’t lie to us. I’ll go help Maria clean up the kitchen,” she declared, giving both boys a peck on the cheek before departing Murdoch’s room.
Scott nodded. “He’ll be fine, Johnny, really. “I’ll sit with him tonight, you get some sleep.
Johnny shook his head. I ain’t leavin’ him, Scott.”
Scott smiled and embraced his younger brother, much to Johnny’s surprise. “You really are all bravado aren’t you, little brother? When it comes to your family your heart turns to mush, today scared the Hell out of you, didn’t it?”
“And it didn’t you?” Johnny accused defensively.
“Some,” Scott admitted, “but you don’t show Murdoch a lot of affection Johnny and I guess we all assumed you were still angry with him. You do know how to push his buttons and you do it all the time. Your feelings have changed somewhat towards him, haven’t they?”
“Yeah… I guess they have, Scott.” He smiled that boyish smile they had all come to love. The one that made him look much younger than he already was. “I guess I do kinda love the old bastard now, huh?”
Scott laughed and lightly punched his little brother in the gut. For Johnny to admit that, they had come a long way. “So you now believe what Teresa told you that day by the river?”
Johnny grinned. “It wasn’t hard, Scott. Mama always was on the move and she lied to me all the time. I knew that. I ain’t stupid ya’ know.”
Scott did know. In fact, he thought his little brother was very clever. He also thought it a complete waste, since if Johnny had received the educational opportunities he had, then he could have easily competed with many of the boys Scott had tutored during his time at Harvard. He allowed his brother to continue, knowing full well he was going to anyway.
“We never stayed in any place for long, we were always movin’ around and Mama was always busy, if you get my meanin’?”
Scott cocked his eyebrow; he got his meaning all right; only too well. But he wanted Johnny to carry on. It was the most Johnny had told him about his past. So he decided to keep quiet. It seemed Johnny was in a rare talkative mood.
The only light, striking their faces, was the light from the fire that burned and flickered in the dark room. It was a good light and one that kept Johnny’s face partially hidden…safe from view.
Murdoch moaned and both boys were by his side in a flash. But he didn’t awaken.
“You were saying,” Scott prompted not wanting to miss the moment.
Johnny let out a sigh. “Mama well she was …well I kinda looked after myself, Scott. I had to … Mama she had things to do you know?”
Scott did know. He’d been privy to the Pinkerton reports concerning his little brother.
“I had lots of uncles, Scott, some I even liked,” at that he seemed to smile as if a memory had stirred an emotion in him unexpected, as quickly as he smiled though it was replaced by a scowl. “But nothing ever lasted with her.” A deep frown marred his handsome face and his eyes glittered as though tears were forming.
At that moment, Scott wanted to take his little brother in his arms. However, instead he remained rooted to the spot, for fear his little brother would stop speaking. His instincts told him he should hold him, protect him, but his understanding of his brother told him something quite different. Now wasn’t the time for such emotion and so he stood very still and watched Johnny very carefully; waiting.
The boy let out another long sigh. “I learned a long time ago, never to let myself get to close to anyone, Scott, because it never lasts. Saves a lot of disappointment.” He smiled knowing his brother would recognise the words he had spoken on that first day.
Scott nodded. He did remember. “But you don’t feel that way now, do you, little brother, we all need someone?”
Johnny shook his head. “No, Scott, but it sure does scare the Hell outta’ me, sometimes, ‘specially when one of ya’ gets hurt.” He squirmed as if feeling the angst once again of past incidents.
Scott could understand that. It was obvious Johnny was very insecure and he wasn’t ready to lose the one thing he’d found, his father. Nor was he ready to lose his brother. It was one of the reasons he had remained distant and aloof. Scott understood because he kind of felt the same way. Johnny had been afraid to love because he’d been afraid of abandonment again. Of losing the one thing he cared about the most, his father. With love, he was fast learning, came responsibility and it was a lesson his younger brother was learning the hard way it seemed. Scott’s heart soared with love for his little brother but he also felt pain at what he had missed. He secretly wished he’d been around when Johnny was growing up. Scott had wanted a little brother. He was a lonely child growing up in the stiff environment his grandfather exposed him to. Johnny would have benefitted from having an older brother to protect and love him. They had missed out on so much. Scott thanked his lucky stars he had him in his life now, despite his mischief making. Life with Johnny and Murdoch was the best it had ever been.
Johnny wasn’t as tough as he liked people to believe. Scott had figured that one out real early in their relationship; it took others a little longer; such was Johnny’s ability to hide behind his mask. He was very good at concealing his feelings and building walls.
“Are you ok, Johnny?” he prompted again. He wasn’t sure if the moment had passed but he wanted Johnny to talk about his past. He had heard him battling his nocturnal demons in nightmares that obviously scared the Hell out of him. Johnny, he knew, had devils he needed to exorcise.
“Seems, Mama could never stand to see me happy, huh?” He smiled but only with his mouth, his eyes told a very different story. “She didn’t give a flyin’ fuck about me, Scott, she never did. I mean if she didn’t want me, why didn’t she just leave me with Murdoch?”
Scott shook his head. He didn’t know; he had no answers. He did hate Johnny’s mother and he felt a little guilty about that, since he’d never met the woman, but he couldn’t help the way he felt. “I’m sorry, Johnny,” he replied, even though it sounded lame to his own ears.
Johnny reacted to his older brother’s sentiments. “Don’t need your pity, Scott.”
Scott nodded. “No, I don’t guess you do.”
“She didn’t even take the time to feed me, Scott. Sometimes I was so hungry. Jesus, Scott, she could barely look after herself. I grew up mostly takin’ care of myself. Mama was too busy suckin’ on a bottle and lyin’ on her back. Hell, brother, she barely knew I was around.”
Johnny wrapped his arms around his upper body in a tight self hug. It was something Scott had witnessed him do in the past; usually presenting itself when his brother felt vulnerable, alone and scared, but Scott still didn’t move. Johnny was telling him about his childhood and it was the first time he’d ever said anything to him. He knew Johnny was fragile but he knew better than to go to him, it would only send him into flight.
What Scott didn’t know was Murdoch could also hear his son. He’d come around, but had kept his eyes closed, afraid if he opened them he would shed tears or say the wrong thing. The anguished father felt like his heart was about to burst wide open, as he listened to what his youngest son had been forced to endure. Why Maria, why? Did you hate me so much you had to make our son pay? He had no answers and thought maybe there never would be any.
Scott slowly moved to his brother’s side. “Are you alright, Johnny?” he asked gently.
Johnny lifted his head, his mood changing. Night and day. Scott thought. Johnny could change his mood in a heartbeat and often did.
“Sure, Boston. It’s like what the old man said that first day….it’s in the past…dead and gone…so there ain’t any point in dwellin’ there, huh?”
Scott knew the moment had passed. “No, Johnny, I guess there isn’t…but if you ever want to talk about it, I’m all ears, ok?”
Johnny grinned swiping at his brother gently. “Ok, Boston, but I don’t need all that shi…erm…stuff,” he declared turning to his father.
“He is goin’ ta’ be ok ain’t he, Scott?” he asked changing the subject.
“Yes, little brother, he is, now go to bed, please. I’ll stay with him. I promise if I need you I’ll call ok.”
“No buts, Johnny, remember I’m your legal guardian when Murdoch isn’t around or when he’s sleeping,” he laughed, “so….” He pointed to the door. “Bed, young man, and that’s an order,” he ordered and laughed again.
“You sure do like callin’ the tune, don’t’cha, brother.”
“Yes, actually I do…now BED!” he demanded in his best officer’s tone.
Johnny walked to his father’s side and gently stroked his hair from his face. “See you in the mornin’, old man.” For a moment it looked as though he was going to kiss their father but he just lowered his lips to his ears. “Don’t do that to me again, old man, otherwise it’ll be me doin’ the smackin’.”
It took great restraint on Murdoch’s part not to open his eyes and laugh. Scott wasn’t so guarded and he snorted out loud, spraying his younger brother with a fine burst of spit and mirth.
“Shit, Scott, watch it, will ya’.” Johnny scolded, wiping the moisture from his neck.
“Sorry, Johnny,” Scott replied even as he waved his hands at his little brother effectively pushing him out the door.
Murdoch was fully aware of what was going on but skilfully kept quiet, the morphine was wearing off and he was a little woozy but he was well aware what had been said. He began to think of when Johnny was injured with Pardee’s bullet. The boy had often played possum, to good effect, but he now knew when he was doing it. Johnny could no longer fool either him or his older brother and he briefly wondered if Scott knew he was now playing possum, just like Johnny had done so many times before.
It saddened the older Lancer beyond belief to hear of his younger son’s struggles. No wonder he picked up a gun…poor kid was left with little choice. He must have been scared and alone and a gun would have at least offered him protection. He understood now…Maria hadn’t been the most maternal mother when she’d lived at Lancer and it seemed that hadn’t changed after she left. He could only imagine she took Johnny because he had loved him so much…it was to spite me. His heart became heavy, when he thought of all the would haves and could haves; he couldn’t stop the single tear from falling forlornly down his cheek.
Scott saw it immediately. “Are you alright, sir?” he asked, suddenly worried. Had he heard?
Murdoch opened his eyes. “Scott, if only she hadn’t taken him, things could have been so different. You too, son, you were taken from me and I couldn’t begin to battle with your grandfather. He had money, power and I hadn’t the means in the beginning…I…” His body seemed to melt into the mattress as grief pushed heavily upon him.
“Shhhh... Murdoch, you’re tired, we can talk about this later. I do understand. Grandfather can be very persuasive when he wants to be. I know you love us sir, please sleep…we’ll talk later…but for now sleep.” He gently pushed his father’s hair back and cooled his forehead with a cloth. “Hush now, sleep, Father.” The roles were reversed as Scott became the father.
Murdoch looked into his oldest son’s eyes and accepted his affection sighing contentedly; soon he fell into a deep sleep.
Johnny waltzed into his father’s room with his usual energy. Scott had been there all night, as promised and he found him sleeping in the high backed chair beside Murdoch’s bed. He stopped and stared first at his sleeping father and then at his brother. Smiling to himself he silently crept across the floor towards his older sibling and leant in closely to his ear.
“Wakey, wakey, Scott.” Johnny laughed poking him gently in the stomach with his free hand. He had a coffee in his other and he waved it under his brother’s nose. “Yeah, that’s it, brother…wakey, wakey….this is for you. Maria made it.”
Scott’s eyes opened groggily and upon seeing the coffee his hand snaked out to grab for the cup. “Morning, little brother,” he spoke around a yawn and stretched.
“How’s Pa?” Johnny immediately asked.
“He slept all night, Johnny.”
“Maria’s makin’ him some oatmeal for breakfast,” he grimaced, pointing his fingers in the direction of the hall.
Johnny had never been a fan of oatmeal unless it was laced with sugar; the very thought had his stomach doing flip flops and he shuddered. Scott didn’t miss the move and he laughed. “Are you going downstairs to fetch it then, Johnny?”
“Yep and I’m lookin’ forward to it, Scott.”
“Do tell,” retorted Scott, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Well, he’s made me eat that stuff often enough,” Johnny pouted, his bottom lip protruding, until a smile curled it upwards at the corners as he added “Maria’s even brewin’ him some tea.” He was gloating now, an evil glint lighting his eyes. It was payback time he figured and he wasn’t going to get too many other chances, at least he hoped not.
“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you, little brother,” Scott asked knowing full well the answer.
Johnny frowned, he was but he wasn’t keen on letting his older ‘pain in the ass’ brother know. He tried to deny it. “No…well… yeah... now I am. Well, now that I know he’s gonna’ be alright,” he clarified.
Scott’s face hardened with stern disapproval. He felt the need to act the older more responsible brother.
Johnny began pleading his case. “Hell, brother, he’s made me drink plenty of them things, it’s my turn,” he declared thumping his chest.
His older sibling got up and walked to the bedroom door, he was tired. “I’m getting some sleep…enjoy, little brother,” Scott said waving behind him with his hands.
Johnny frowned when Scott could be heard laughing as he marched along the hallway. “Sleep well, brother,” he shouted after Scott, “and don’t worry I’ll look after him,” he declared; smiling.
“I’m sure you will,” said Scott, chuckling as he turned into his room, closing the door behind him.
Maria finally brought the tea and Johnny gleefully told her to leave it with him. He would see that his father took it. Maria had harrumphed, but she left the room anyway.
“Hey ol…” he reconsidered his choice of words when he saw his father frown. “Pa, wake up, its breakfast time,” he whispered. Murdoch, he knew, could be a bear first thing in the morning. But heck he couldn’t do anything to him now….could he? He thought warily. Nah! He concluded he couldn’t.
Murdoch’s eyes fluttered. “Johnny,” he rasped in a sleep rough voice. “Sam here?”
“No, sir but he’s popping in ta’ see ya’ later. Maria’s made oatmeal for you, Pa,” he gloated.
Murdoch’s eyes opened abruptly. “Here, let me help ya up.” Johnny put his hands under his father’s armpits and tried to lift him but when Murdoch hissed he let go pretty quick.
“Urm, maybe you can manage that yourself, huh,” he said, embarrassed.
Murdoch groaned. There was no way in Hell he could pull himself up.
“Never mind, Pa, I’ll feed ya,” he declared shoving the spoon into the oatmeal to give it a stir. “Ya gotta eat it whilst it’s still hot, ya’ know?” he said cramming the mixture into Murdoch’s mouth. His face was a picture of pure mischief as Murdoch sputtered. He’d never been a fan of oatmeal either. Eventually, when Murdoch had had enough he glared hard at his youngest son. One look in his father’s eyes told Johnny he should stop shovelling.
“There now that wasn’t so bad, was it, Pa?” he asked innocently; wiping his father’s lips with his napkin.
Hell, he can’t be that mad, can he? Johnny frowned. I’m only sayin’ what he says to me every fuckin’ time I’m injured.
Murdoch knew what his youngest was up to and he decided for now, he was going to play along. “No, son, it wasn’t,” he grimaced forcing a smile he didn’t quite feel.
Johnny smiled; his eyes gleaming with mischief, as he turned to the tea by his father’s bed. Maria’s tea was notorious in the Lancer household and she brought it out every chance she got. “Here, Pa, drink this,” he said stifling a laugh while offering up Maria’s tea.
“John.” The spoken name vibrated in the room like a curse uttered in church.
“What?” Johnny asked, striving to make his tone sound innocent.
“Get Maria,” Murdoch ordered.
“She’s kinda’ busy, Pa, now drink. Maria told me ta’ watch you …she said you can be sneaky sometimes…a bit like me, huh?” he said grinning. “Is that true, Pa?” He snickered.
Murdoch shook his head but dutifully drank the tea, sputtering as he did so. The stuff was foul but he knew Maria wouldn’t be asking him to drink it if she didn’t think it were necessary. He also knew what his youngest was up to…it was payback for all the times he’d made him behave during his own convalescence. He felt a sudden need to mount his own attack.
“Johnny, I wouldn’t do this if I were you…heaven forbid you’re ever ill again, son,” Murdoch teased.
“C’mon ol…I mean Pa… I’m just lookin’ out for ya’.” He grinned slyly.
“Of course you are,” Murdoch exclaimed not believing him for a minute. “But you don’t have to enjoy it quite so much, Johnny.”
Johnny huffed. “I need ta’ give this to ya for the pain and ya know it,” he said holding up the laudanum.
“To quote a certain young man…” Murdoch replied, his stern mouth slowly morphing into a smirk because it was time for his own special brand of payback. “Ain’t happenin’, he declared, pausing to tap his index finger to his chest, “I’m fine.”
Johnny scoffed, “Aw c’mon, Murdoch, Sam says you gotta take this!”
“I’m fine,” Murdoch insisted with iron jawed stubbornness.
“Now don’t make me hav’ta revert to the old tried and tested method you use on me. C’mon be a good boy,” Johnny cooed, and then he snickered.
Murdoch glared at him. The boy was indeed enjoying himself but when he made to pinch his father’s nose, his insolence was stopped with one look and a stern warning. “Don’t you dare, Boy!”
Johnny froze because even incapacitated his father was a formidable figure.
“I’ll take it, if indeed that’s what Sam said…but, forgive me if I don’t quite believe you right now, son. Get Scott,” he demanded.
The familiar pout appeared on Johnny’s face; he wasn’t happy. “Murdoch,” he complained; bordering on a whine.
“GET SCOTT!” he yelled, pain and lack of patience taking their toll.
“But... Pa,” Johnny interrupted.
Johnny dipped his head. He’d gone too far and he really didn’t want to disturb his older brother for something so trivial.
“Honest, Papi,” he soothed, pasting on his sweetest smile, “Sam did say you hav’ta to take this. I’m sorry ‘bout the teasin’,” he apologized; chancing a glance, “Honest, I just couldn’t resist givin’ you a hard time. Scott’s awful tired, Murdoch. Don’t make me wake him up, he’ll bust my ass.”
Murdoch smiled. He knew Johnny was slightly wary of his older brother now, especially when he got mad with him. “Well, just see you don’t do it again. Now give me that laudanum, boy, and I’ll show you how it should be taken. And son…” Johnny looked at his father. “If I find out you’re lying to me…” he left the threat hanging in the air as his son gave him the medicine.
“Yeah, yeah I get it but I ain’t lyin’ honest.”
Murdoch had no sooner swallowed the laudanum when his eyes grew heavy; his eyelids drooping lower and lower. He was fast asleep in less than ten minutes.
Johnny continued to watch his father sleep but quickly grew bored. Murdoch’s room was a no go area for him most of the time. Neither, he or Scott had spent much time in the room, preferring to leave their father alone in his private sanctuary.
The youngest Lancer’s boredom made him curious so he began an inspection of the room. Jesus but the room is neat, he thought as he prowled. Scott and the Old Man are so alike. “Fuck ain’t they got anythin’ better to do with their time?” he laughed speaking to him self out aloud. It sure is organised, he thought; snickering to his self as he looked at his father’s stash of books lined up alphabetically in the bookcase.
His father stirred slightly and he froze, looking like a little boy who’d been caught stealing some candy. Shit! What the hells wrong with me? It ain’t like I’m doin’ anythin’ wrong, Jesus!
Murdoch stirred again and this time Johnny whispered, “Sshhh and then snickered nervously.
This is just so like the man, everything in its place, in order. Hell he ran the ranch much like he ran his room, thought Johnny; smiling. Like he ran his men and sons too! Jesus but the old man was obsessive about people being late, tardiness was just not acceptable. For his own part he didn’t really give a damn, if he was a minute late but Murdoch’s temper would flame up like dry brush in a firestorm.
Yep, everything and every one had to be in their place and everyone had to, without exception follow his orders, jumpin’ to his tune. Scott’s like him, too, Johnny thought darkly, he’s always tellin’ me what to do, what to wear, what to say. Jesus, anyone would think I wasn’t able to make a fuckin’ decision to hear him at times. Been takin’ care of myself for a hellavah long time, didn’t need him then, don’t really need him now. He felt himself growing angry and he really didn’t know why. Not really. Hell he’d stayed hadn’t he? Yeah. So his older brother was like their old man? It didn’t really matter did it? He thought about it for some time. No, it didn’t. Not anymore anyway. He knew his brother loved him; had his back, his old man too. So what if he was bossy. If he didn’t want to listen he didn’t have to; and often he didn’t! He had to laugh at that. I ain’t like either one of ‘em, come to think on it…not in height or colouring. Folks have told me often enough, I’m Mama’s double. But I’ve got Lancer eyes, he thought proudly. Well according to my old man I have anyway.
Johnny laughed, ol’ Boston was lucky he sure took after their old man, but he had his mother eyes, Murdoch had said that first day. It struck him as kind of funny; he was like his Mama in the looks and stature, yet he had his father’s eyes and Scott was like Murdoch in looks and in height, yet he had his Mama’s eyes. Total opposites in every way. Using the same logic he thought, Scott is from the east and I’m from the West... Hell, Scott even sounds like the old man at times. A small light twinkled in his eyes. Sam says there’s a lot of the old man in me, most especially his stubbornness. He smiled, he was also arrogant and proud, just like Papi, he thought grinning. Yep he had to admit both he and his brother had a lot of their father in them and he was only just beginning to see it.
Johnny’s ruminations returned to the state of the room, as he looked around and saw the order his thoughts went sheepishly to his own bedroom. Yep so different, his was a chaotic mess! Unlike his father and brother’s room, he could never find anything and his socks… well, they were a law unto themselves. He could never find the damned things; well, actually he could never find one of the damned things. He believed his bossy sister stole one of them deliberately just to annoy the Hell out of him.
Shrugging his shoulders, Johnny decided he really didn’t care. Looking after his room was a low priority as far as he was concerned. He wasn’t going to clean it up anytime soon, at least as long as he could get away with it, anyway. Johnny hated being cooped up indoors, he much preferred to be outside tending to his horse and doing outside chores and his father knew it, which was exactly why he stuck it too him when he was being punished and made him do household chores.
Everyone told him, he spent far too much time with his horse and his big brother had told him more than once he just spoiled the animal. Johnny didn’t agree. Barranca knew many tricks and could get him home when he was too drunk to care.
The horse had been a life saviour, after an all night tear in Morro Coyo. He’d taken him home as he’d dozed on his back and right to the front door. Yep, he thought, I sure do love that horse!
Johnny didn’t go to Green River, at least not when he snuck out anyway. He knew well and good, Val was there and if he caught him in town when he wasn’t supposed to be, all Hell would rain down upon him. Val would drag his sorry ass home, and then tell his father what he’d been up to. Nope, he now went to Morro Coyo for his fun, Green River wasn’t worth the risk.
Johnny sighed, his thoughts returning to his beloved horse, his Palomino. Barranca had been a stallion once, his shoulders slumped but recently his father had demanded the horse be gelded and Johnny had been unable to stop it. Fuck, my plans, to stop the gelding of Barranca, had worked for shit. It was a sore point for the boy, literally. His hands went naturally to his nether regions at the sudden painful memory!
Barranca was the first gift, he’d received from his father, and he loved the horse. In part, he now realized, for that very reason alone.
As for tidying his room, well as far as Johnny was concerned, it was never going to happen. It never ceased to amaze him how his mind worked, How could I go from Barranca, to tidying my room?... Ain’t happenin’ that’s T’resa’s job, he thought with a grin, glad that she couldn’t read his mind. He wasn’t about to share his opinion with his sister, Maria either, she was too handy with her wooden spoon!
Time passed at it had a way of doing and as Murdoch healed he was getting restless. Johnny was on cloud nine. He’d been forced to stay under house arrest many times and now his father wasn’t allowed outside and it tickled the young man. He denied it but he was relishing his father’s captivity and everyone knew Johnny was heading for trouble, asking for it, tempting providence, but still he teased.
“Feelin’ kinda bored, huh, Pa?”
Murdoch harrumphed. “No, my son, I can always read, you should try it sometime…next time you’re laid up,” Murdoch taunted right back.
Johnny had countered with, “Ain’t too nice bein’ confined to the house, huh? Don’t know ‘bout you but I like fresh air,” he teased.
Murdoch was not a happy invalid but he endeavoured to hide it.
“Shame, huh? These four walls closin’ in, are they? Gettin’ a bit stir crazy, are we?” Johnny laughed poking his father on the shoulder, gently.
Murdoch made a sound like a bear growling. “I’d stop this if I were you, my son.” He swiped at the boy but he still wasn’t quite fast enough to catch his recalcitrant youngest, annoying son as the lad danced deftly out of reach. Johnny could he heard laughing all the way across the yard. He even had the audacity to make a face as he passed the arched window and although Murdoch wouldn’t admit it, he had actually turned his back and laughed at his younger son’s antics.
It was on the third day of his father’s confinement that it happened.
Johnny got up as usual, when his older brother knocked soundly on his door, secretly thrilled at the prospect of another day’s teasing. He dressed without argument and was in a hurry, running for the smells of the kitchen; in a good mood for once. (It was well known by the family, that Johnny needed at least one mug of coffee in the morning before he became remotely human.)
Johnny mounted the stair rail with his usual grace and slid down the banister with his usual speed, but this time he was so busy plotting and planning another day of teasing, he misjudged the landing, falling with a wallop and a bang right into the dresser at the bottom of the stairway, his leg caught at an impossible angle!
“Owwwww!” Johnny yelled as people came running from all directions.
“My God, son, your leg!” Murdoch exclaimed upon seeing his youngest; his expression one of pure shock.
It was at this time Johnny actually looked at his leg and when he did, he sucked in a breath, fighting the bile that rose in his throat over the grotesque scene...now he felt the pain, which suddenly became very intense!
“Arrrrggg!” he groused trying hard not to move. “Shit it hurts like all holy Hell, Pa!” he shouted, ending his rant with a pant.
As if it wouldn’t, his leg is twisted in a completely unnatural way, thought Murdoch as he went to his son’s side.
“Stay still, brother,” Scott implored, holding Johnny by the shoulders. “You’ve broken your leg.”
“Arrrg…!! NO SHIT!” snapped Johnny, sarcasm and pain tingeing his voice. “Tell me somethin’ I don’t know, brother!” he seethed through clenched teeth, grunting in pain. “Ahh…” he hissed, “Scott! it hurts!”
Fear fuelled Murdoch’s next words. “Johnny, how many times have I told you not to slide down the banister? The banister is for your hand and not your backside.” He held up his massive, work calloused hand. “This hand, however, is for your backside, if I catch you doing it again,” he threatened.
Johnny wasn’t willing to answer his father’s first question. No. The truth was, he couldn’t answer; at least not at that moment in time. He was far too busy holding back the tears now in mortal agony.
Scott was shaking his head as he swiftly walked to the back door. “WALT!” he shouted in the direction of the bunkhouse and almost immediately old faithful Walt came running.
“Yes, sir, Mr. Scott?”
“Get Sam, as fast as you can, please, oh and Walt, don’t spare the horse.”
Walt nodded. “Who is it this time?” he asked pulling on his jacket.
Scott threw his hands up in the air and said, “Johnny!”
He didn’t have to say anymore as Walt nodded. He was saddled in minutes and riding for Green River at a gallop.
When Sam arrived he was simply amazed at the angle of Johnny’s leg. Immediately he signalled to Scott to get the morphine from his bag, knowing full well he wasn’t going to be able to reset Johnny’s leg, whilst he was conscious. He was still shaking his head when he approached the boy. “What on earth have you done to yourself now? How on earth…?” The question remained on his lips.
“Get it sorted!” Johnny seethed, grimacing with the pain.
Sam’s eyebrow cocked and he was about to say something when the tune caller spoke up.
The roles it seemed had miraculously reversed …once again.
Shit! Johnny thought upon seeing the expression on his father’s face.
Eyes narrowing, Murdoch began, “He slid down the banister, Sam and landed badly. When he’s better, he and I are going to have a serious discussion in the barn, concerning his penchant for doing things I have expressly told him NOT to.”
Whilst, Johnny was distracted, Sam took advantage and stuck him in the arm with the morphine. The old doctor let out a long suffering sigh as he listened to a string of Mexican cuss words fill the air…English, too; before the drug rendered Johnny senseless and silence once again ruled supreme.
With Johnny now unconscious, Sam was able to manoeuvre his leg back into its proper position, set it and cast it. He was going to be out of action for quite some time, he explained and in a cast for at least six weeks!
Murdoch had actually laughed; making the doctor frown. He explained, he wasn’t laughing because his son had injured himself, oh no, he was laughing because his son had been teasing him mercilessly all week about his own convalescence.
However, Sam gleefully pointed out, Murdoch wasn’t fully recovered so the two of them, father and son, were going to be confined to quarters for the foreseeable future.
That shut the old man up, thought Scott, grinning.
Peace descended on the Lancer household but it didn’t reign for long, for as soon as Johnny’s eyes opened, his mouth began flapping.
“It ain’t fair,” the younger Lancer complained. “The one time I get a chance to get back at you for all the times you’ve stuck it to me and now look at me…it just ain’t fair!” he complained to all who would listen, clearly frustrated.
Murdoch was chuckling as he picked up his pipe. “Well you should know by now son, you’ll never get one over on me…never …nope… son….never….so don’t even try!” he added with a chortle as he lit his pipe. The puffing began in earnest as he worked to light it.
His laughter was short lived, however, as Maria and Teresa flounced into the room, both of them declaring it was time for them to be washed. They delivered a hearty lecture to both men young and old, for their foolishness as they went about their task.
With both men in casts neither could have a normal bath. So it was decreed Maria would wash Murdoch, giving him as much privacy as she could of course and Teresa was going to handle her brother much the same way.
Both Lancer men, rolled their eyes as it became suddenly clear, who the real ‘tune callers’ were!
By Heather Mallard.