Disclaimer:- I don’t own the boys… wish I did! Cause if I did things would be different!…Peebles started something good and Fox let it go. They didn’t see what they had with Wayne and James as Scott and Johnny…. they were blind.
I have to say a huge thank you to Ma Prate for her obvious influence in this wee ditty…i.e. Paying the Piper etc….She has allowed me, kindly to use her take on things and for that I remain humbly grateful…
Thanks Kit always…You know I love ya..
Once again thanks also to Binnie for encouraging me to post it….
As it is with Kit and a few others, the boys will stay young forever and I make no apologies for that. So Johnny is 19 and Scott is 25.
Unbeta’d…again…Hope ya’ll like it…
Johnny would stand up to any man, large or small and he was one of the most defiant, stubborn youths alive. He hardly ever backed down from a fight; would in fact, sometimes if the mood took him, start one, and he had a quick, sometimes menacing temper. However when it came to his father, his brother, Val and large middle aged Mexican ladies he was reduced to a stammering boy in seconds.
Maria, simply put, scared the Hell out of him! So his preference was avoidance; not such an easy thing anymore.
She knew just exactly what to do and when to do it and she did ‘it’ often! And she was positively mean with her wooden spoon. Then there was the times, when she withheld his favorite deserts! For him that was the absolute worst thing she could do and she damn well knew it too.
When he thought about it, he never had worked out how to handle older females and their wrath. He figured it was a Mama kind of thing because his Mama had, been quite a tyrant when her temper had been up. He had learned pretty damned fast to keep out of his Mama’s way when she was riled. It had been easy too, because most of the time she didn’t know, or even care where he was anyway. So his choice had been to run and hide and stay away until she cooled down.
His mothers namesake, Maria, the Lancer cook and housekeeper had become a surrogate mother to Johnny and to Scott, since they’d come home. But Johnny knew, she took particular interest in him and took her role very seriously. Unlike her namesake, she had a sixth sense, about when he was about to bolt and collared him before he got away.
Murdoch could hear the commotion in the kitchen and he glanced at his older son who had just appeared in the hallway. They could both see Johnny through the glass windowed door leading to the kitchen.
“Johnny’s in trouble again with Maria?”
“Yep’ sure sounds like it Murdoch,” Scott said with a twinkle in his eye. He was grinning. Not that he enjoyed seeing Johnny in trouble, oh no. It was just that the thought of Johnny Madrid terror of the west being chastised by a little Mexican woman, no larger that five feet, armed with a wooden spoon, seemed ridiculous. But never the less there he was, head down, chin resting on his chest; his feet rocking back and forth and his hands clasped at his back. Looking, for all the world like a little lost orphan. The thought that Madrid could be reduced to a stammering boy seemed to have Scott suppressing a giggle. But he had to admit, if only to himself, Maria was a formidable creature when on the rampage and she was positively mean when it came to dispensing liberal amounts of corporal punishment for any misdeeds or transgressions.
The two older Lancers watched as Johnny stood before the irate woman; his thumbs now tucked neatly into his silver buckled belt; his body still rocking too and fro, one foot extending out in front of the other; his head, still hung low, in obvious shame. To anyone looking on, the boy looked terribly perplexed and, young.
Murdoch eyes softened, it was as if he’d been transported back in time, to another place. What he was seeing in his minds eye, was his son aged around twelve and the thought brought moisture to his eyes. He and Johnny had missed out on so much but Johnny in that moment looked so young, it was easy for the older Lancer to imagine he was still only twelve. He was also the picture of abject misery and pure guilt as Maria lectured him in rapid Spanish. Whatever was wrong with the housekeeper, it was obvious, she was angry with the boy. And boy he still was.
But the clincher had come when both men had witnessed Maria whacking Johnny on the backside with her wooden spoon more than once, making the boy skip and flinch out of her reach, which was considerable for a woman of her size.
Murdoch had to stuff his hand in his mouth, as he watched Johnny retreat to the other side of the kitchen table, and Scott, he was no better, now bent over, holding onto his belly.
Murdoch had quickly come to the conclusion that his younger son was still in dire need of parental guidance; that much had become apparent to all at Lancer. His penchant for mischief…and mischief was all that it was… was second to no one in the valley. In point of fact there was little that went on in Green River that Val Crawford the local sheriff and good friend to Johnny, didn’t level at the boy.
He looked even younger when he was being chastised by Maria, and after berating him for at least ten minutes she stormed off mouthing words in Spanish about disrespectful boys who should mind what their father’s say and who weren’t too old for a whipping, at the hands of said father.
As the woman disappeared, Johnny scoffed rolling his eyes as he puffed himself up with his usual bravado. But Murdoch and Scott knew damned well and good, he wouldn’t have dared scoff in front of the woman. He rubbed his hands through his long hair and sighed, relieved that she’d finally given up and let him go. He turned tail and bolted for the hallway, before she changed her mind and did her usual thing; supervise him.
In his haste to escape, he ran right into his old man with an ‘oomph’ as he bounced off of his chest. He was glad that he’d gotten away from Maria but perplexed that he’d bumped into his old man, who still hadn’t forgiven him for his latest bit of mischief in town.
“Hey…urm …Murdoch.” He flashed his father a toothy grin, momentarily standing on his toes and then turning on his heel to run in the opposite direction, bumping immediately into his older brother…
“What’ve you been up to little brother?” Scott asked with an ironic grin.
Johnny tried to act cool, trying to quell his obvious embarrassment at having been caught being brought to task by the little woman, but Hell even Murdoch avoided the woman when she was on a rant!
He stumbled out his answer.
“Huh…? Erm..nuthin’, nuthin’ at all big brother…”
When Scott’s eyebrows went north, he got angry, his hot headed Mexican side coming to the fore…
“Goddamn-it Scott, t’ain’t none of yer God-damned business. Is there no privacy in this fuckin’ house?” In his anger he’d quite forgotten his father was at his back.
“John!” Murdoch cautioned. “Mouth!” Just the one word was enough to let his son know what he was threatening and the memory of the soap made him close his mouth immediately.
“Didn’t sound like ‘nothing’ to me little brother and contrary to what you believe what you do is my business,” he turned to Murdoch a glint in his eyes. “Did it sound like ‘nothing’ to you sir?”
He loved yanking his little brother’s chain and Murdoch wasn’t averse to a little teasing either.
“No son it didn’t.” Murdoch smiled, turning back to Johnny with a frown. “Why was Maria angry with you Johnny, I want to know.”
Flippant Johnny replied. “Then I guess you shoulda’ been listenin’ harder, huh… old man!?” He sneered, his sharp insolent reply having the desired affect as Murdoch’s eyes narrowed.
Johnny instantly knew he’d gone too far and he backed up a pace or two. It was never a good thing to be within grabbing distance of his father, especially when he had that ‘look’ going on!
Shit I gotta learn to keep my Goddamned mouth shut. He thought wincing at his father’s now stern expression.
He hadn’t meant to be quite so snappy but Hell they wanted to know everything. He lowered his eyes and yielded to his father’s authority once more, something he was doing a lot of recently. Suddenly finding something, very interesting on the floor.
Murdoch was now glaring at the top of his head. He was so close to the boy, his hair fluttered, as he blew out through his nose; much like a horse would snort after it’s been ridden to near exhaustion.
“Don’t you dare address me in that tone boy!” Murdoch thundered. “You’ll show me more respect and you’ll tell me what that was all about,” he nodded at the kitchen, “And by God, you’ll tell me, now!” he yelled making his younger son blink nervously.
Johnny groaned inwardly and then turned, when he heard his older brother put in his dimes worth.
“Actually I concur with our father Johnny.”
Upon seeing the frown on his little brother’s face and a look of sheer puzzlement, Scott explained..
“I ‘agree’ with our father, it didn’t sound like nothing, you must have upset her terribly for her to rant on at you like that…What did you do John?
Jesus…John..! Him too…shit my ass’ll be toast if I tell em. He thought sweating. Then he remembered what his smart assed brother had lectured him about and was hit by a miraculous bit of inspiration.
“Seem to remember,” He said with his usual air of bravado and soft drawl, glaring hard at Scott, “Someone tellin’ me, eaves droppin’ was bad manners…” he huffed proud that he’d remembered. “Wouldn’t be right if… I… didna’ point out your wrong doin’s…, older brother,” he tried, slapping Scott’s chest with the back of his hand; his face alight with pompous glee.
Murdoch raised his hand to shut both young men up and spoke quietly. “You are right of course John,” he took hold of Johnny’s collar and yanked him onto his toes, so that Johnny’s face was very close to his own. “Eaves dropping is bad manners but it isn’t as if we could escape hearing her bellow .., and .., since we love her too, we have a right to know what you did to upset her. So, that said, now’s as good a time as any, for you to tell us.”
Scott was nodding his head in agreement, smirking.
Johnny on the other hand was sweating profusely. Shit…!! He was still on his toes, struggling to free himself. A useless thing since his father was that much stronger.
Jesus but his old man’s a big ol’ son-of-a-bitch. He sighed knowing he had to say something. “It was nuthin’ Murdoch…, honest.” He declared lying through his teeth.
Scott took in a deep breath. “Seems, we’ve come full circle sir…” he said smiling at his father. “Like I said, little brother it didn’t sound like…’nuthin’…to us.”
Johnny was filled with a sudden desire to sock his older smart assed brother on the nose instead, he stuck out his tongue, surprised that he’d even been moved to do so.
Scott was extremely talented at mimicry.
Murdoch grinned at his older son. Although he was annoyed with Johnny, whatever the boy had done, it had not been, as he put it ‘nuthin’. He still loved these family moments…These moments when Johnny would try to con him, test his brother, or pull a fast one. It was getting harder and harder the closer they all got, but still the boy would try and it was something the older Lancer actually enjoyed…well most of the time he did.
His boys had fulfilled a dream of his and he felt complete with them around. There was no doubting their love for one another and despite the fact they’d known each other for les than nine months, it was as if they’d been brought up together and it pleased him no end.
“Come on son spill the beans.”
Resigned Johnny let out a deeply held in breath. “Maria wanted me to do the dishes for…. Well, for not doin’ what you told me earlier.” He dipped his head unable to look his father in the eye. The last thing he wanted was his father to learn about his earlier disobedience.
Murdoch nodded his approval. The housekeeper always backed him up. “And!” he prodded.
“And, I started to complain and well one thing lead to another…” he cringed. It had been a lot more than just arguing Johnny had used language unfit for the woman’s ears and been downright mule headed.
Murdoch frowned. He’d known about Johnny’s disappearing act when he was supposed to be helping Cip on the fence line and he’d also heard about his particularly harsh prank played on Wilbur the nephew of Mayor Higgs, but he hadn’t known anything about him being disobedient when he’d finally come home.
“What are you talking about Johnny, out with it young man.”
Johnny sighed. He glanced at his father and quickly averted his eyes. “Well you know how I hate ‘em pigs Murdoch….”
Murdoch eyes narrowed. He’d assigned Johnny that particular chore precisely because the boy hated ‘em pigs! “Go on.”
Johnny took in a deep breath.
“Well, instead of cleanin’ ‘em out like you told me…I kinda’ paid young Billy to do it for me..” He grinned changing his mind when Murdoch inhaled sharply.
“Maria saw me relazxin’ in the sun, as he was just finishin’ up and she also saw me pay him too. Then when you came on home, she watched me lie to you when you…you… praised me for doin’ a bang up job.”
He had the good grace to blush.
“Then she started raggin’ on at me when you disappeared; smacked my ass with that damned wooden spoon a hers an’ told me she was goin’ to make me do dishes, till they were comin’ outta ma ears. I didn’t like the idea and when she made good on her promise, I argued with her and well here we are …that’s what you heard.”
He grinned trying to lighten the mood and focus on something else.
“Billy did a good job eh, Murdoch? You said so yourself…maybe we should let him do it all the time.” He suggested his eyes lighting at the idea.
“I see.” Murdoch pulled his son forward and dragged him back into the kitchen, pointing to the sink. “Dishes…your going to do them all, then your going to clean the whole kitchen for Maria…I want every tile; every surface to gleam, nothing less young man.”
Johnny started to grumble but was silenced by a pull to his collar and a single hard swat to his backside, as a promise of things to come.
“And further more, if I’m not happy with the results, you’re going to be one very sorry young man John, now hop to it.” He declared shoving his younger son towards the dirty pans and dishes still left on the surfaces.
Later Scott and Murdoch were playing chess in front of a roaring fire in the Great room. Johnny was still busy in the kitchen and had worked like a dog all evening long, under his father’s occasional supervision, with a stern warning that he’d better not skip out on his duties this time.
It was nearing nine o’clock when he finally plopped onto the couch in the Great room, declaring to both his father and his brother he’d done a good job and that the place was as clean as it had ever been. And it was true he had done a very good job. Murdoch knew Maria would be pleased.
“Well done Johnny.” He praised, making his youngest smile.
Johnny rested his head on his hands. “See told’ya, I could do it…it was just a question of putting my mind to it an….
“Alright son…that’s good. I’m glad you’re taking this role seriously because it’s a role you’ll be attending to for at least a week.”
Murdoch interrupted, and upon hearing his younger son moan, he pointed to the hallway and stairs and declared… “Bed.”
Johnny’s eyes went wide….
“What! I don’t wanna’ go to bed just yet … I wanna’ relax first…. with Scott and…and……”
“Bed!” Murdoch interrupted again, this time a little more sternly…
Johnny was upset. “Jesus Christ old man, I ain’t a two year old ya know!”
“No…well you certainly can act like one Johnny! Now go to bed before I treat you like the two year old I remember so well.” He smiled, warmed by a sudden brief memory.
Johnny glanced at his older brother for support and saw that he wasn’t going to get any there. Still he wasn’t ready to comply.
“I ain’t goin’.” He declared his arms wrapped around his chest. He cast a wary eye at his father and decided maybe he should plead. “Murdoch c’mon, ain’t like its time.” Even to his own ears he sounded like a whiny toddler.
“Johnny you’re going to be doing dishes and tidying the kitchen for the foreseeable future and you are going to need extra sleep in order, to be able to do your normal daily chores as well, now do as your told.”
“Jesus I ain’t a fuckin’ kid Murdoch! I know when I’m tired and I ain’t fuckin’ tired… ok!” he exploded.
Murdoch had, had enough, of his mouth and blatant defiance and suddenly and without warning, he stormed over to his son giving him no time to react, as he bent down and grasped his legs, pulling him forwards.
“Whoa! What the hell!”
The momentum of his father pulling hard on his legs had Johnny pitching forwards. Murdoch then grabbed his upper body, and as if he weighed nothing at all, picked him up and threw him over his shoulder and marched with him up the stairs, ready to bed him if necessary.
“Murdoch lemme go!”
Scott burst out laughing shocked at what he was seeing.
No matter how his younger brother struggled, Murdoch sternly held on with one arm, whilst even managing to smack his rump more than once with the other as he climbed the steps.
Once in his room Murdoch dumped him unceremoniously onto his bed and both relieved and shocked, Johnny sat there open mouthed.
Wasting no time Murdoch then turned to rummage through his drawers. “I’ll not have one more word from you, understand.” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Your clothes John, take them off.”
“Murdoch for Christ’s sake!”
“The good Lord has nothing to do with this John, so stop sprouting off like a whore in a bordello and get undressed…NOW!” he barked loud enough it made Johnny physically jump.
It hadn’t been that long ago when his father had demanded he take off his clothes after he’d gotten wet and injured once again, in a thunder storm. He remembered how that had ended. So holding up his hands in defeat he whispered out a feeble but defiant, “Ok, ok…no need ta shout.”
His father ignored his insolent tone and was now holding out the hated nightshirt as he stripped. Now standing in only his drawers, he took hold of the garment, without complaint and put it on; but visibly sulking. At his fathers nod, he reluctantly climbed into bed in silence.
Happy, Murdoch tucked him in…fluffed his hair and bid him goodnight.
He was lying in bed reflecting on what had just happened. It hadn’t been all that long ago when he was in command of what he did and when he did it and frustrated, he sighed out loud. What the Hell Murdoch?!
Then the old familiar memories that had haunted him for more years than he cared to remember, assaulted him again; the gut wrenching loneliness that had plagued him nearly all of his young life. He shivered, feeling suddenly cold. He’d been alone in a world determined to kill him and had survived but now….now, things were different and that was due to his Pa, his family. And Hell he figured it was worth all the ass chewing to no longer feel so alone; to feel wanted, needed… no, that wasn’t all; he now knew, loved.
He could still remember when he’d had no one to reprimand him, no one to punish him if he didn’t do as he was told, and no one to care for him.... too love him and help him when he was injured.
Hell, no one at all…, he shivered once more.
Sighing he turned onto his belly and looked out of his window, feeling the soft evening breeze on his face, as it drifted into his room. At last he was home at Lancer. Home…
And finally content, he snuggled right down into the warmth of his bed and pillow, finally figuring this had to be way much better.
It didn’t take him long to fall into a deep sleep, but this time sleep didn’t come with the usual nightmare that still haunted him from time to time and he slept like a baby, safe in the knowledge that his family loved him, warts and all.